I’m joined by author F J Curlew today who is sharing a guest post about how her latest novel, The Unravelling of Maria, came about. If it whets your appetite for the book, you can order a copy here: The Unravelling of Maria
How The Unravelling Of Maria Came To Be
The seeds of this story were planted some twenty years ago at a football match! I was on a university field trip and happened upon the Estonian under16 football team. They were playing Scotland in a World Cup qualifier. The Scottish lads strode out: smart kits, proud shoulders, heads high. The Estonians didn’t have matching kits, had holes in their boots, and sort of shuffled out – they had just achieved their independence and times were hard. Of course, despite being Scottish, my heart went out to them! I struck up a (sort of) conversation with one of the players and we became pen-pals. I became obsessed and devoured everything I could get my hands on about Estonia. Before even setting foot on Estonian soil, I had fallen in love with the little country; its history, its strength, its beauty, its magic.
Two years later, despite the protestations of my family, I packed up everything I owned and headed off to live there. My arrival coincided with a rather special Song Festival. Since the diaspora of the 1940’s the Estonian emigrants had held international song festivals in various countries around the world, but this was the first time the international event had been allowed to take place in Estonia itself. As I stood amongst tens of thousands of Estonians – many of whom were also here for the first time – who were singing and dancing, the intensity and depth of feeling enveloping everyone and everything swept through me and I was moved to tears again and again. Of course I knew of the Soviet years, the struggle for independence, the hardships, but I didn’t know about this. Their singing and what it means to them. As I talked to people over the years and learned of their family histories; the deportations, executions, the hardships of Soviet times, and the Singing Revolution that brought them their freedom, I knew I wanted, at some time, to share this story.
I didn’t want it to be a simple telling of history. It had to be more; to be different. It was such a challenge and it took years to find the right vehicle to use, the right characters, the right story. This little country meant so much to me that I had to do it justice. Finally, after hundreds of thousands of words had been penned and discarded, and I began to doubt I would ever manage to write something I was entirely happy with, Maria, Angie, and Jaak said, “hello”, and everything began to fall into place. The characters began to tell me their stories and I was on my way. I ploughed through research material (not a chore!) and checked with Estonian friends that my account was accurate.
Jaak tells of life behind the Iron Curtain, Maria of those that fled. And Angie? She tells of a dark side to Scotland beyond the shortbread, tartan and tourism.
From the back of the book
Lovers separated by the Iron Curtain.
Two women whose paths should never have crossed.
A remarkable journey that changes all of their lives.
Maria’s history is a lie.
Washed up on the shores of Sweden in 1944, with no memory, she was forced to create her own.
Nearly half a century later she still has no idea of who she really is.
Jaak is fighting for Estonia’s independence refusing to accept the death of his fiancee Maarja, whose ship was sunk as she fled across the Baltic Sea to escape the Soviet invasion.
Angie knows exactly who she is. A drug addict, a waste of space. Life is just about getting by.
A chance meeting in Edinburgh’s Cancer Centre is the catalyst for something very different.
Sometimes all you need is someone who listens.
About the author
Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!
As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK.
She now lives on the east coast of Scotland and has written four novels.