Friday, 6 April 2012
The Housemaid's Daughter Down Under
In February I was lucky enough to visit Australia and New Zealand for a family wedding. At the same time I managed to meet the folk who will be promoting the novel in that part of the world. And what a pleasure it was because the venue for each meeting could not have been more spectacular!
Just outside Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand is a beautiful winery called Amisfield, where we sat on the patio amidst marvellous scenery and wondered how NZ readers would respond to a book set in South Africa. There is an interesting connection: many early NZ settlers would have known the kind of dislocation and loneliness that Cathleen in the book felt during her early years in South Africa. So Cathleen's journey may very well strike a chord here, perhaps echoing local family stories passed down to the present day.
From New Zealand, it was on to Australia where I was once again fortunate to have a meeting in a wonderful setting, only this time indoors: the National Gallery of Victoria, just past Federation Square in the centre of Melbourne, and just up from the Yarra River. Here, too, our discussion focussed on the solidarity many local readers will feel with Cathleen in her attempt to build a new life so far from home.
As I left for the UK the next day, I couldn't help thinking about how extraordinary it is that we fly across the world retracing the steps of our forebears, often without appreciating that for them the journey was invariably one-way, and that there could be no change of mind, and no going back. That takes a certain courage.
Next time, getting in front of the camera...