Dual time books are great.
Shadows of Time by Jackie Meekums-Hales released in April the Women’s Fiction genre.
Maggie’s daughter, Cathy, is a successful business woman in Australia. After the failure of a relationship and her mother’s death, she returns to England for the funeral, hoping to rekindle her childhood sense of carefree life in the Yorkshire countryside. She is confronted by revelations about Maggie’s tragic past, which has a legacy of loss overshadowing her family’s present and future. As Cathy and her sister June unravel the truth, her mother’s story unfolds in a flashback to 1945. Life for the young Maggie before they were born reflects the world of mid-century attitudes towards women who dared to have a baby out of wedlock. The illusion of the Maggie her daughters knew is dispelled.
Meanwhile, two young women explore family history, and fate takes a hand. Three families are linked through coincidences and circumstances they did not know they shared. Cathy must decide how far, and for what reasons, she allows herself to live in the shadows of the past.
As she looked out across the water at the familiar silhouette of the city, she realised that what mattered was the past she carried within her, a past that time could not change. Her mother had kept her sadness and her loss to herself, but, like so many of her generation, she had gone to her grave with that trauma unresolved and the sorrow never wiped away.
That evening, on her laptop, Cathy listened to the testimonies of the children who were part of the “stolen generation”. There was a lot wrong with the world, but thank goodness it had changed. Their experiences seared her heart. “Half-caste” children had been forcibly removed in an attempt to dilute their brown skin in the future. How could that have been seen as right? How could it have been right to take away a baby born of love to a woman who had already lost the man who fathered it? She felt the weight of being a woman in a world where women had, for so long, been victims of hypocrisy and twisted morality. Somewhere in her head, those Aboriginal women and her own mother blended into one huge, tangled barb of loss. She would understand, next May, her country’s “Sorry Day.” She only wished there could be another, across the world, for all those women who wept for the children taken from them.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jackie is a member of the Society of Authors, whose debut novel Shadows of Time was the fulfilment of an ambition nurtured during her working life as a teacher, inspired by her research into her own and others’ family histories. She has been writing as a hobby since childhood, contributing to poetry anthologies since her undergraduate days and being a Poetry Guild national semi-finalist in the 1990s. She has also written short stories for friends, family and students. Since retiring, she has contributed to Poetry Archive Now (2020), with 20-20 Vision, uploaded to YouTube, and has had poetry and flash fiction published online by Flash Fiction North. One of her flash fictions is to appear in an anthology, having been selected from entries during the Morecambe Festival 2021. She had a creative memoir, Shelf Life, published by Dear Damsels in 2019, a precursor to collaborating with her sister on a creative non-fiction memoir Remnants of War, published in 2021. She writes a blog about her walks and thoughts in the Yorkshire and Somerset countryside.
What can we learn, as women living in time, from this story?
I didn’t set out to write a didactic novel, but I’m reminded of a poem by Gillian Clarke,“Letter From a Far Country”. She pays tribute to a woman of the 1970s and the women who came before her. She calls it an “epic poem about housework, and thousands of years of carers and nurturers.”, which she wanted to write, because most epics are about war – only men’s topics seeming to be considered worthy. In her own article Letter From A Far Country – Gillian Clarke she comments that “it’s being a woman in a world that is still, 30 years after the writing, run almost entirely for and by men…”. In a way, this novel is my tribute.
Twenty years further on, we may have more women like Cathy, aiming high and running her own business, but we still live in a world that is largely male-dominated, and women often carry the major responsibility for families, even when working. In the novel, June has coped with caring for her children and her mother, with an absentee husband, and there are many women for whom this is a reality, so maybe June’s experience would raise awareness and prompt empathy.
I hoped the story would shine a spotlight on the plight of those women who were expected to give up their babies because they weren’t married. They faced shame and untold grief, and it’s only now that there is a campaign for an apology for what happened to them, because women not much older than me are speaking out. This happened in my life-time (I was born in 1950); it deserves to be acknowledged and condemned.
Having experienced a daughter emigrating with my grandchildren, I found that whereas there was support for the “poms” who emigrated, I encountered an attitude, even from other women, that we mothers should just be pleased that our children were happy, as if we had no right to our feeling of devastation as well. We can feel both! Maggie’s experience is the recognition of a sense of bereavement for the child(ren) you can no longer touch, hug, kiss or include in your life in the same way as you could before. When I was doing genealogy research, which prompted writing the novel, I discovered ancestors who’d emigrated to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, in times when only letters would have been the contact, and I wondered how those parents felt. Maybe they, too, had been heartbroken, but nobody recorded it. That’s not to say that I want to allocate blame – just stimulate empathy with the totality of parents’ experience, so it’s not such a lonely place to be.
History has taught us that, while we’ve made strides in women’s rights, progress has taken hundreds of years. Mary Wollstonecraft campaigned for women’s political representation in 1792, but women didn’t get the vote until the twentieth century, and the Madonna ideal persisted. While today’s young women are beginning to speak out about sexual harassment, women have been expected to put up with it for generations. I included Cathy’s experience of harassment, before she emigrated, but the recent enquiry into child sex abuse in the UK (IICSA) has highlighted how young females are so used to cyber sexual abuse that they often haven’t reported it, because it seemed “normal”. However much we may feel that we have come a long way, there is still so far to go.
The past can sometimes be a positive influence. When Cathy rediscovers her childhood self and comes to terms with her mother’s past, she readjusts her priorities, and we sense that she will be happier for it. Sometimes, we’re so busy, as Wordsworth put it “getting and spending”, that we lose sight of what’s important. We can learn to evaluate how we are spending the time we have, before it’s too late.
We can learn, as women living in time, that we are part of a continuum, stretching back long before we were born, and the journey towards acceptable treatment of women isn’t over. Time doesn’t always heal. We should never make assumptions or judgements about the lives of others, because we may have no idea what scars they carry. The past may be gone, but it may have a significant impact on the present, and sometimes on the future, for good or ill.
Twitter account: Jackie Meekums Hales, writer (@jackieihales) / Twitter\ https://mobile.twitter.com/jackieihales
Jotting Jax Blog
Goodreads: Jacqueline Hales – Goodreads
Facebook author page: Jackie Meekums Hales | Facebook
This post is part of a tour. The tour dates can be found here: https://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2022/03/vbt-shadows-of-time-by-jackie-meekums.html
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