Welcome to the first stop on the blog tour for My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor. Over to you, Deborah, and thanks so much for a terrific post.
MY 5 FAVOURITE BOOKS INSPIRED BY REAL WORLD STORIES
I love fiction that is inspired by real world stories. There is something wonderful about reading a novel you think you already know all about, because it’s based on an item you’ve seen on the news or because you’ve come across it in a history lesson, only to discover an author has transformed it into a book that then makes you think about that event forevermore in a wholly new light.
The idea for my debut novel MY HUSBAND’S SON came from an article I read in a magazine. I was sat at work reading Grazia on my lunch hour when I stumbled upon a feature about an American couple: Beth Holloway and John Ramsey. John’s daughter JonBenet was a six year old beauty queen who had been found beaten and strangled in the family cellar while Beth’s eighteen year old daughter, Natalee, went missing on a school trip to Aruba and had never been found.
It was a lightbulb moment.
John and Beth’s relationship fascinated me. Their damage (ie. their lost children) was also their bond. I wondered what it must be like to have this (as opposed to your shared love of swing-dancing or obsession with Game of Thrones) as the one big thing you had in common. I was also interested in the fact that while John had long lost the right to hope that his daughter would be rescued (she was in the ground, dead and buried) Natalee could still hold onto and nurture a hope (no matter how slight) that one day her daughter might be found alive. I wondered if John ever envied Beth’s ability to believe her daughter was still out there.
And then my thoughts started to take on a life of their own. What would happen, I wondered, if Beth’s daughter was ever to be found? No doubt it would unbalance her entire relationship with John and undermine the premise on which they had come together. It was then that the plot for MY HUSBAND’S SON was born.
There are lots of amazing fictional novels that are based on or inspired by real world stories, but these are my particular favourites.
- Room by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue describes her novel as being triggered by rather than based on the Austrian case of Josef Fritzl who locked his daughter Elisabeth in a basement for 24 years, raped her repeatedly and fathered her seven children, three of whom were imprisoned with her. Donoghue’s book could have been a horrible tabloid rehash, instead she manages to create a novel that is breathtakingly original. Narrated from the point of view of Jack, a 4 year old child, ultimately the story ends up being more about the bond that exists between a mother and son than their captor and the horrors he puts them through.
- The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
In this novel Guskin includes genuine excerpts from two non-fiction books on reincarnation: Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence For Past Lives written by psychiatrist Dr Ian Stevenson and Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives by Jim B. Tucker. The inclusion of these real-life cases gives her fictional story about Noah, a small boy who has started behaving very strangely, an extra edge. Guskin said that she included these real chapters because she wanted readers to know that cases like Noah’s weren’t just the stuff she’d made up in her head. I think the chapters do even more than that. They add a frisson and a sense of breadth to the best, most thought-provoking, most heart-breaking novel I’ve read in years.
- Resistance by Owen Sheers
In this novel Sheers offers an alternative ending to the Second World War that imagines a successful German counter-invasion of Britain. The plot centres around the inhabitants of a Welsh valley and follows what happens when a group of German Wehermacht soldiers stay there after the wives’ husbands leave to serve in the covert British Resistance. I love this novel for many reasons (Sheers’ writing is sublime) but for me, being presented with such a convincing alternative outcome to one of the most significant world events (the end of the war) manages to make you rethink and re-appreciate our victory and how very different things could have been on an everyday, domestic level.
- We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Shriver took her inspiration for her Orange-prize-winning novel from the Columbine massacre and other school shootings (sadly, there are many to choose from). Like Donoghue and Room, Shriver tells the story through the eyes of a character who, if this was told as a news report, would not be ‘the’ central figure in the story: the killer’s mother, Eva Khatchadourian. Eva documents her attempts to come to terms with her son Kevin and the murders he committed in a series of letters to her husband. Again, like Donoghue, Shriver takes a story that is ostensibly about one thing ie. the school shooting and transforms it into something entirely different, namely an exploration of nature vs. nurture. Was Kevin was born a psychopath or did he turn out like he did because of his mother’s coldness? I’ve read this novel multiple times and each time I’m left with in awe of Shriver’s technique, vision and originality
- High Dive by Jonathan Lee
Based on the 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, this novel takes us inside the assassination attempt on Margaret Thatcher and makes you see this event from the perspective of a few (fictional) individuals involved. I’d seen the news footage of the giant hole in the front of that hotel a million times but Lee’s portrayal of the month leading up to the event made me feel it in a way that I had never experienced before. I can now no longer think about the moment other than through the prism of this novel. Powerful stuff.
My Husband’s Son
Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.
Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son – Barney – disappeared.
Their shared loss brought them together.
The police investigation into Barney’s kidnap remains open, but after five years… it has lost momentum. Then, by chance… Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney. But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.
It’s Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth…?
My Husband’s Son (eBook) by Deborah O’Connor is published by Twenty7 on 6th June 2016 at £4.99
Deborah O’Connor read English at Newnham College, Cambridge, before going on to become a television producer. Having worked on everything from The Big Breakfast to Big Brother, she produced the BAFTA award-winning poetry documentary Off My Heart and is currently the head of factual development at TV production company, CPL.
Born and bred in the North-East of England, she now lives in East London with her husband and daughter.