Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Uprooting to England
I type to the whine of chainsaws. Most of our hundred year old white pines, towering high above our home, have died of a mysterious infection. Feeling the thud of falling trees brings home my own uprooting. Or is it transplanting?
We are moving to England for the year. My husband, Henry, is taking a research sabbatical at Oxford University, his alma mater. Our children will be attending English schools, and we’re even taking the dog along. Henry and the kids have dual citizenship, but my visa states that I’m a “settlement wife!” I do feel like a pioneer venturing into a new life.
In England I will be researching my third novel, NOT CRICKET (renamed A MATCH FOR EVE). My first two novels were set in my home state of Maine. NOT CRICKET's Evelyn Levesque is a Maine native on a junior year at Oxford University. She returns 20 years later to track down her first love who disappeared mysteriously (plot changed).
Like my central character, I spent my junior year at an English University. I had a rather dramatic trip overseas. My flight to London was cancelled when the plane exploded on its way to NYC over Lockerbie. Henry was beside himself until he learned that I was not on that doomed flight.
The next day I flew to London undeterred, assuming security would be top notch. My hometown of NYC changed so much after 9/11, but the shadow of terrorism has hung over England for decades. You learn to live with it.
My last long stint of living in England was in 2004. Henry ran the Colby-Bowdoin-Bates study abroad program in London for six months. Our children attended an English school like Hogwarts. My son won enough house points to attend a cricket match at Lord’s. We had many good adventures which I relayed to friends and family via bi-weekly e-mails. This time it will be easier with a blog.
England already feels like a second home. Raising a mixed nationality family, it helps to spend time in both countries. We are lucky that academia and writing provide the flexibility to do this.
I’ve always planned to write a novel about the Anglo-American experience. Despite a common language, there are cultural barriers leading to amusing misunderstandings. I consider myself bilingual after 17 years married to a Brit. Do I have stories to tell!
It may take a couple of weeks for me to get back on line, but I will keep this blog running weekly about our adventures abroad. We plan to travel to France, Italy, Kenya and other countries. It won’t be just vacation. I will be alternating research on NOT CRICKET with revisions on S.A.D.
First I need to finish packing and preparing the house for our lodgers (already thinking in English vernacular!) Next Wednesday we will be flying across the Atlantic and won’t return home until July 2008. After friends and family, the hardest thing to leave behind is my personal library, but I hear there are a lot of books in Oxford!
And now to answer the desert island question:
Books for the plane:
Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights
(it takes place in Oxford if in a different dimension)
Kirin Desai’s Inheritance of Loss
(well recommended literary fiction)
Books I shipped:
Strunk and White – the classic writer’s manual
The Brief English Handbook- another for checking grammar
Points of View – a collection of different narrative points of view
A new journal
Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener for my Bartleby character– I still have my copy from high school
Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes since S.A.D. is also set in public high school
Four nonfiction research books
For NOT CRICKET:
Valerie Martin’s The Unfinished Novel – brilliant short stories about artists and writers
Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants-excellent example of first person present and past tense interwoven narratives, a form I’m considering
Ian McEwan’s Atonement – as an alternative form, a book in chronological parts, also very English
Books I will buy in England:
A dictionary, a thesaurus and a baby name book
Does Cricket for Dummies exist?