A year on …

Time flies by so fast!  My second novel Revolution Day was published by Crooked Cat a year ago today.  In honour of that, the e-book is reduced to 99p/99c until 17 July!

It seems appropriate to commemorate the day, because anniversaries feature heavily in the novel.  The title, Revolution Day, itself refers to the annual celebration of the events which, somewhat fortuitously, brought President Carlos Almanzor to power in a fictional Latin American country.  The novel begins on the thirty-seventh of these occasions, as the ageing Carlos walks out onto his balcony to give his time-honoured speech to the crowd who by now know much of it by heart.

And I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say that it ends twelve months later, on the thirty-eighth.  During that intervening year, Vice-President Manuel Jimenez has been orchestrating a complex plot against Carlos. Not by force – he lacks a military power base – but through intrigue, manipulating the perceptions of the President and those around him to undermine his position and drive a wedge between him and the Army. As Manuel makes his move, people close to Carlos, including his estranged wife Juanita, will find themselves unwitting participants in his plans.  As to whether Manuel succeeds, I’m saying nothing – you’ll have to read the novel to find out!

I’ll end this post with an excerpt touching upon yet another anniversary – the birthday of Juanita, who has been under house arrest for sixteen years following her disastrous personal and political split with Carlos.  She is writing a memoir of their marriage and his regime, charting its descent from idealism into autocracy and repression.  Inevitably, she also touches on the constrained circumstances of her own existence, in which a birthday is no longer something to be celebrated ….

When I was a child, I would become almost frantic with excitement on my birthday, and for much of the preceding night. Looking back, I was rather spoiled. I was an only child, and my parents, though not rich by any means, had enough money to buy me nice dresses and toys, wrapping them up in shiny paper that I would tear apart with the feverish urgency of a starving person coming upon a bar of chocolate. They would always lay on some kind of event for me, too: a party for all of my friends, a trip to the zoo, something like that. Even well into my adulthood, this was still a day to be celebrated, a day when I could feel special. When I was the first lady of the Republic I would be treated like royalty for this one day each year. Birthday greetings would be given on state TV; random members of the public would send me flowers. I loved it!

Sadly, this is no longer a day I look forward to. Not just because it marks another milestone on my inexorable progress towards old age, but because it can never seem anything but pathetic in comparison with the obstinately vivid memories of those earlier birthdays. I would really prefer to forget that this is my birthday at all; to treat it as an ordinary day, no more dull or depressing than any other. Unfortunately, however, people do not grant me this kindness. Thus, when I went downstairs for my breakfast this morning – not realising, for the moment, what day it was – there was a sprinkling of envelopes on the doormat to remind me.

I shouldn’t be too hard on them, I suppose. They mean well, those cousins and old university friends. Their cards are full of earnest concern, reassuring me that I am always in their thoughts, urging me to keep my spirits up while unintentionally having the opposite effect. There is usually also a smattering of cards from other well-wishers – church leaders, charities, that kind of thing. People who can afford to be seen expressing sympathy for me without being in danger of arrest for conspiring against the Government. I have noticed that there have been more of these in recent years – I suppose I should be encouraged by that. Occasionally the odd card gets through even from some of the blander, more conciliatory figures among the FDP leadership – those whom the Government tolerates in order to maintain some facade of pluralism. These are somewhat sporadic, and rarely bear any message other than ‘happy birthday’. I suspect that they are steamed open and confiscated if they say anything more substantive.

Each year, without fail, there is also a card from my husband (it feels odd to call him that, but legally we are still married. I suppose he thought that divorcing me would achieve nothing that locking me up has not already done; that it would merely give his critics an unnecessary opportunity to make capital out of his treatment of me. I am hardly in a position to divorce him). This is always, without exception, the largest and most elaborate card I receive. Also without exception, it contains no message other than ‘Best wishes, C.’ In the early days I invariably used to tear up his card as soon as I found it, sometimes without even opening it (I could always tell which one it was). Once, I even tried wiping my bottom on it. Not something I would recommend, by the way. It was most uncomfortable, and blocked the toilet afterwards. Anger fades, eventually, and the resentment that remains does not have the same motive power. Latterly I have come to regard these cards more with curiosity than anything else. Why does he bother? It is not as if there is any likelihood of a rapprochement after all these years. I am resigned to staying here until one of us dies.

You can find out more about Revolution Day here: http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/#!revday/cwpf

 

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