Grace & Serenity
At nineteen, Grace has already had a child and endured an abusive marriage. But she’s also had her baby abducted by her vengeful husband and been framed as a neglectful mother. Even her own parents doubted her version of the story. So she did the only thing that made sense to her—run away.
The streets are unforgiving. Winter is drawing in. And Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival. At her very bleakest, a Good Samaritan swoops into her life and rescues her. With a roof over her head and food in her stomach, she longs to see her baby again.
But nothing ever comes for free.
BRINGING PLYMOUTH TO LIFE
Grace and I have something in common—we both love Plymouth Hoe. What’s not to love about a city centre that opens up right onto the sea? Well, a short walk uphill, but then the sea—deepest blue or vivid green—hugged by headlands to form the Sound and stretching towards the breakwater.
Like Grace, I was born and brought up in the city, and there was no bigger treat than ice-cream on the Hoe after a Saturday morning trailing after my parents around the Pannier Market and seemingly endless shoe shops which populated the 1980s streets. If we timed our visit well, we’d see the ferry from France or Spain arriving or departing. We would sit in front of Sir Francis Drake’s statue and run around Smeaton’s Tower without—at that age—appreciating the history of them.
And there’s a great deal of history to be had.
Plymouth boasts England’s oldest working gin distillery, and the world’s oldest commercial bakery still in operation. Laurel & Hardy, Walt Disney, and Catherine of Aragon all disembarked on our shores. While notable departures include the Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower in 1620, Napoleon in 1815, and Charles Darwin on the Beagle sixteen years later.
When I started writing Grace’s story, flashes of scenes would appear to me fully formed. And mostly, she was sitting on the rough concrete beaches wistfully gazing out to sea. The Hoe and its foreshore are so tied to Grace I couldn’t imagine her anywhere else.
I mention the concrete a lot in the book. There’s no actual beach in Plymouth, save for a few patches of pebbles at low tide. A rocky cliff face plunges into the water instead. At some point (research for dates is still ongoing), paths, steps, and concrete platforms were built into the cliff to allow tourists access to the water. Even now, I can still get lost walking along these paths, expecting to end up at a certain point and never quite making it!
On the western side of the promenade is an art installation depicting where the Beatles sat when they visited in 1967—their bums, hands, and legs marked out with copper moulds. Heavily-pregnant Grace sits there to have some wedding photos taken. One mistake I made in the book was saying they were bronze—research fail!
Smeaton’s Tower, synonymous with Plymouth Hoe, is the top two-thirds of a lighthouse originally erected on the Eddystone Rocks. On a clear day, you can just about make out these rocks and the lighthouse which stands there now. Smeaton’s Tower was preserved when the rocks beneath it started to erode, because it was the first example of the design all lighthouses are now built to. I’ve been to the top just once when I was about six or seven. I’m scared of heights. It was not a good day.
It’s a big responsibility to set a novel in a specific place—my representation will be read by people who’ve never been there. Will my characters and the gritty story I’ve told be the impression of Plymouth my readers take with them? I hope not. I hope the beauty of the area and my love of it shines through.
Like Grace, my breath is always taken away when I reach the top of the hill and see the Sound. I want that for other people too. She spends a lot of time wandering the Hoe—first, when she’s trying to pacific her restless baby, and later when she’s sleeping rough—soaking in the calming atmosphere just minutes away from the usually bustling city shops (I’m writing this during lockdown and the city is silent).
Hopefully, by the time you read this, I’ll have made it back there.
What’s your favourite novel set in a real place? What things in your town are visitors drawn to?
Author Bio –
Crawford writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories, with a hint of the paranormal.
Over the years, she has won several competitions, and had many short stories published in small press journals and online. Highlights include being placed 3rd in the Costa Short Story Award 2015 and being longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and Bath Short Story Award in 2018.
Social Media Links –
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/annalisacrawford.author
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