'Hugely readable and quietly profound, this novel about family, in the most modern sense, explores the singular bond between mother and daughter ... it explores the aftermath of passion, of political upheaval, and of the disintegration of the nuclear family with a sensitivity that is both lyrical and deeply moving.' Beatrice Colin
From the Author
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
... as Wordsworth wrote, in The Prelude, about the period of the French Revolution. And it's a quotation I've heard applied more than once to 1968 when the post-war generation of young people got out on the streets and tried to change the world for the better. At least, that's what it felt like at the time.
In France, those who participated in 'les événements' of 1968 are known as soixante-huitards (for non-French speakers, soixante-huit just means sixty-eight), and for them and for those who witnessed it, to a greater or lesser extent, the period helped to shape their lives subsequently - as it does for Georgina Hardiman in Miranda Road.
I was in Paris twice in 1968. The first time, just a few days before les événements erupted with full force, I was trying to cross Paris in a taxi with the mother of my exchange partner (I was still at school) and we were stuck in a vast and very French traffic jam (lots of horns and people calling out of their car windows) with a taxi driver whose vocabulary was way beyond my grasp of colloquial French as he swore at the chaos caused by the demonstrators I only glimpsed moving down a boulevard. I had no idea what any of it was about, though the general atmosphere of the late 'sixties had infected even the dormitory of my convent school as we sat around in the evenings strumming guitars and singing Bob Dylan songs and trying to get away with wearing hippy beads under our uniform blouses.
At the beginning of August, I was back in Paris, this time on a business trip with my parents (I'd left school a couple of weeks previously). By this time, we all knew what it was about: the news had been dominated by it. The atmosphere on the streets was still electric and, as we were staying in my father's usual hotel right in the middle of the university district, we were in the thick of it.
One night we found ourselves in a street lined with vehicles disgorging hundreds of riot police, in full Dr. Who-style gear, and had to dodge down little side streets and try to find a 'safe' way back to the hotel. Only many years later did my very responsible and respectable parents admit they had actually found the whole thing wildly exciting! (Well, I never ...)
In Miranda Road, it's in May 1968 that Georgina and Amadou's daughter, Eloisa, is conceived - literally a 'daughter of the revolution'. But part of the novel is about the next generation's rejection of - or failure to understand - what it was all about. Feminism, political activism, '68, anti-Thatcherism, anti-consumerism, anti-militarism (yes, those flowers down the gun-barrels) - all the things so dear to Georgina's generation fail to take significant root in the next generation. Or so it sometimes seemed to those whose lives shaped by such things. Or is it just that Eloisa's generation didn't realise the differences all that 'sixties stuff' had actually made to the world they inherited?
How a short story became Miranda Road
My novel Miranda Road grew out of a short story, 'Dancing to Schoenberg', published some years ago in Ambit. The characters and situation just wouldn't leave my head, even long after it was published: Georgina Hardiman (father American, mother second generation Polish immigrant) and her daughter Eloisa (father half French, half Senegalese) clamoured for attention and for their whole story to be told.
I tried to placate them by writing a few more short stories with this single mother and her awkward but intelligent daughter as the main characters, but this still didn't satisfy them.
Feeling almost bullied by these two strong females living in my head, and not quite knowing what to do about it, I sent the collection of linked short stories to The Literary Consultancy for advice. The diagnosis was as I feared: 'This is a novel trying to be born. Just get down to it.'
Easier said than done. It took many drafts to unpack all the implications buried in the snapshots of their lives represented by the short stories - a number of which played no part in the final narrative.
But now it's done. I have given Georgina and Eloisa their novel and hope they like the way I have told their story.