Monday, 15 February 2016

Characters who won't let go

I’m one of those people who can’t let their characters go. They stay with me. I tie them up with their Happy Ever After (HEA) or their Happy For Now (HFN) and I still find myself lying awake wondering what’s happened to them. Where do they go from here? Will it last? Will her family ever get used to the idea? How will he cope with giving up everything for love? All that jazz. 

I’m the same with other people’s books. A good friend of mine, Jane Riddell, has a book out there that preys on my mind from time to time. Daughters of the Lake is about a family gathering in Switzerland — three sisters and a brother, called together by their mother. Inevitably, there are tensions.

It’s not the most original plot, if I’m honest. (Sound effect: thrown stone smashing through my glass house.) But it wasn’t the plot that made the book so compelling: it was the characters. Annie, struggling through the break-up of her same-sex relationship. Portia, plagued by the mother’s curse of living through a teenager’s trials. Anxious Vienne, struggling with her marriage and her insecurities. Laurence, the only son, haunted by the miseries of boarding school. And the matriarch, Madalena, calling them all together to hear some news.

It’s hard to handle so many stories at once. At one level the book falls short because it doesn’t tell them all. I thought that we could have lost Laurence, a fantastically drawn character who somehow seemed to have wandered into someone else’s story (the clue’s in the title) when he really deserved a book all to himself. At another, it succeeds stupendously well, because I was left wanting to know what happened to all of the main characters.

Normally this would drive me spare, because authors are like gods: they dispose of their characters as they choose and they don’t have to tell you why or what happens. But I have a hotline to this particular god and so I asked Jane. What happened next?

I recommend you read Daughters of the Lake for yourself. But I’ll give you Jane’s reply. There are no spoilers, so have a read.

Daughters of the Lake is set in Brunnen, Switzerland
Picture by Jane Riddell
“Dear Characters

Recently, after a friend asked me what happened to you after Daughters of the Lake, I started thinking about my special relationship with all of you. You are my creation and no one can destroy you. I hope you don’t mind, but I have thought a bit about what your future might hold.  I’m sure you’ll let me know if you disagree with my predictions.  

Portia, you settle well in Switzerland; you enjoy your new job as a human rights lawyer in Zurich.  And having realised that the best place for Lucy is with you, you are glad she is now going to a local school.  You ski together and go riding. Of course being a teenager, she has her ups and downs.  But at least she now tells you what she’s feeling.    

Vienne, your marriage to Michael picks up, but there is always a background niggle in your mind about whether or not he was unfaithful. Your music career continues to flourish. Now, however, Michael accompanies you whenever he can, and when you sit down at the concert piano to play, you think of him.   

To your great pleasure, Annie, your relationship grows. After two years, you marry and are happy.  Sometimes you think back to your time with Fern, and wonder at having been happy with her,  especially when the physical side of your marriage is so strong. However, you don’t analyse the situation much: there’s more than enough to do with running the hotel.

As for you, Lawrence, when you return to Skye you contact Rebecca to see if she really is going to marry someone else, and try hard to win her back. When this doesn’t happen, eventually you feel relieved. Six months later, you move to Paris. There you spend several years womanising, before you meet someone who is strong enough for you.      

A year after Daughters of the Lake takes place, Madalena, you and Karl marry, and both your families attend. You continue to worry intermittently about all of your children, as a mother does, but Karl’s quiet and wise personality suits you and helps allay your anxieties. You get on well with his son and visit him in Heidelberg regularly. You keep busy in Brunnen with your pottery and drama classes. Karl  cuts down his working week so that you have plenty of time to be together. You go for long walks, and he takes you sailing during the warmer months.   

So that’s it for now, dear friends. I’m sure we’ll stay in touch.”

You can buy Daughters of the Lake on Amazon


  1. Thanks, Jennifer! I much enjoyed Jane's book so am delighted to have an update.

  2. Thanks Kate - Jane definitely creates characters who stay with you.