Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: We’re delighted to have Jinny Alexander here to talk to us about her book, Dear Isobel. Jinny, can you introduce us to your book?
Jinny: Dear Isobel recounts the aftermath of an affair, told by the ‘other woman’, who remains unnamed throughout the book. She’s biased, grieving, sad, and angry, and, as one reviewer put it: “utterly, continuously self-absorbed”. She is also real, honest, and raw. I deliberately left her unnamed, because so many people experience infidelity, and Dear Isobel is almost certainly telling the story of someone you know!
Sabitha: What inspired you to write this book?
Jinny: I began writing Dear Isobel about ten years ago when Ireland was in the depths of recession. I had just lost my own job and was grieving the loss of the work I loved, as were people all over the country. A friend had recently emigrated to Australia and I’d bought her pottery equipment from her when she left. I threw myself into learning to make ceramics to distract myself from having no job – that part of Dear Isobel is shamelessly stolen from my own story. Meanwhile, I began to write again too – something I always wanted to do but hadn’t had time for. Ireland was bored with the gloom of the recession so I found myself thinking of other reasons a business would end abruptly. Meanwhile, a friend was having a fling with a work colleague, so I put the two together – the loss of a job and infidelity, and there was Dear Isobel.
Sabitha: I love that you pulled aspects of your own life into the story—it makes characters so much more real, and in my opinion, relatable. So which character do you relate to the most and why?
Jinny: I know people who have been in the same situation as all four of my main characters, and I have some insight into all their circumstances. I found I had a lot of sympathy for the narrator, despite her afore-mentioned, self-centred brow-beating. I’ve learned just how common infidelity is, and how easy it is to be in the position Charles and the narrator get into. Weirdly, I don’t feel as sorry for Isobel as I probably should, but when I do a sequel from her POV, this may change! Then there’s James… In real life, I know a couple of men who are like James, and they are kind, gentle, loving people who have acted very much as he does in the book. I really admire the James’s of the world.
Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write in the book?
Jinny: There is a line that still reverberates around my head – I think it’s because I accidentally wrote it in perfect Iambic rhythm – but it also sums up the entire story and the narrator’s obsession with Charles: [Do] thoughts of me still linger in the ashes of his dreams?
Sabitha: Thanks for such a personal story. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?