When I was a little girl I was fed on a rich diet of literature. A healthy amalgam of fact and fiction. My home was filled with bookcases overflowing with all the classics but also my fathers collections of military history books. I read them all and soaked in millions of words as only a child can. Somewhere and somehow, along the journey through to adulthood some of us lose the capacity to continue to engage in the imaginative and magical realms that writers invite us into.
Sadly, for many years I declined such invitations. I saturated myself in history, Celtic history and religious history, but in some ways still desperately trying to clutch onto the unpredictable journeys that a novel takes us on. When I went to college and then university to study Psychology I was almost totally lost. No more adventure in The Mabinogion, no more longing and heartache with Tess of The D’ubervilles, no more praying to God a ship finds Robinson Crusoe soon!
No, my newly found fascination was with Piaget, the great Schism, the development of children’s fine motor skills, the Reformation and so forth. Until my mother encouraged me to take a step back into the world of fiction via Jean Auel. That did it. I was reawakened.
My strange and almost obsessive attitude to reading factual literature was I think partly because of my job. As a teacher I believe learning should be a continual process. Education opens all doors and all that stuff! But I realised when teaching English for a while in Hertfordshire that being lost in a novel is also most conducive to the learning process.
Strangely too, as a folk musician I do love stories. Indeed what are folk songs? They are stories. I never felt at folk festivals that I should sing the complete works of Carl Jung. I have never felt the urge to play Sigmund Freud on my mandolin even if I knew the notes; although if he were alive I’m sure he’d have a cranky theory about that one!
But it was last year with the publication of the novel ‘Poppy Day’ by Amanda Prowse that I was fully awakened to the importance and necessity of the ‘story’ and of storytellers. A story by an Army wife about an Army wife. A love story. An epitome of faith and courage. This book absolutely gripped me. As soon as you read the first few lines you are launched into another world. But this world isn’t the fairy world of the Mabinogion or the Middle Earth of Tolkien’s fantasy. This world, in some ways disturbingly so, is our world! The world we all live in!
Poppy Day lives in our world and we in hers. The difference being, Poppy Day knows our world but we are oblivious to hers. Unless of course you are a military wife, spouse or parent. (Or indeed a cousin. I recall weeks of hell during the two tours of duty one of my cousins served in Northern Ireland). One of those folk that may be just down the road from you but you don’t know what she suffers. I would implore you read Poppy Day and get a glimpse of this world.
Amanda Prowse lifts up the floodgates and beckons us all into the reality of love. The reality of courage and a woman’s determination. This is not a far-fetched story. But somehow it maintains the magical qualities of the classics of old.
Why is it an important story? One obvious reason is that all the proceeds to this book go to The Royal British Legion. But also imagine, imagine reading a Dickens or a Bronte or a Defoe hot off the press! Classics, history in the making. Poppy Day is all of those and much more. Poppy Day is living history. A contemporary love story in a 21st century setting but with an ageless sentiment. Indeed Poppy Day could be a folk song and one that would be sung in many fields in many futures!
Just another story? I don’t think so! Poppy Day will be read in a hundred years time and remain just as pertinent as it is today as will all of Amanda Prowse’s novels. Aside from her excellent storytelling skill, Mrs Prowse is a bloody lovely person too!