Round Robin by Lesley Hayes
I first met the enchanting woodland sprite known as Sylva Fae via twitter and facebook, at that time shyly hiding her light amid the forest brushwood. In the time since then I have been delighted to see her create and develop her beautiful blog in her own unique and insightful style. We have forged a warm friendship in the sometimes cold, airless environment of cyberspace – quite an achievement in this social media world where friends are often counted as numbers rather than genuine connections. We share a love of nature and the magic hidden within the everyday, and I feel honoured that she has invited me to be her guest blogger on this occasion. She has become a loyal and enthusiastic reader of my books, and was eager to have me tell her more about my new novel ‘Round Robin’, published on kindle in January 2015.
“Families come in all shapes and sizes,” one of the characters in ‘Round Robin’ says – and don’t we know it in our modern world? I find it impossible to categorise any of my novels – like families, they too come in all shapes and sizes and never fit easily into a genre. One thing all my books and short stories have in common is a profound fascination with the labyrinthine human psyche and the rich complexity of our emotions. ‘Round Robin’ is no exception, although readers of my previous novels ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’ and ‘A Field Beyond Time’ may be bemused to find that in this one there is no psychotherapist, either dead or alive.
‘Round Robin’ opens on a seemingly benign summer’s day in a rural market town in Oxfordshire. But a drastic and far-reaching change of circumstances is on the near horizon. This novel is primarily about families, about the undeclared and sometimes unrecognised fault lines that lie beneath the surface of the ordinary. The central character is ten year old Robin, on the verge of his eleventh birthday and ready to embark on secondary school, which represents for him a particular kind of freedom. Sometimes we see his world and the others in it through his eyes, but we also come to understand from the inside the other major players in the novel: Patrick, Iris, Maddy, David, and Laura. All of them are in some way linked to Robin, and the direction of their lives is altered because of him. The story takes place during the six weeks of the summer holidays. It’s astonishing how much can happen in such a brief time span. One of my favourite and oft-shared quotations from Nietzsche is: “What does not kill us makes us stronger.” Are the characters in the novel made stronger as a result of what happens to them? You’ll have to discover the answer to that by reading it. Tempting though it is to give spoilers, I want you to travel with Robin the journey that he and the others take.
My short stories and novels cover different territory. Within the pages of a novel I have space for a broader canvas on which to explore the human condition both with observation and philosophy. The family is fertile ground for such an exploration. We live in a society where dysfunction is now so much the norm that we barely notice its pernicious effect. We function as human beings weighed down by awareness of our mortality, and yet somehow we live with it, including the dissociation, avoidance and denials it engenders. When we bear to face it we do so with trepidation or delight in the ephemeral nature of our existence. Adopting either one of these positions dictates how we respond to life. Sometimes we are so engrossed in our efforts to survive the curved balls that life throws at us that we sacrifice or forget the thing we need most of all in order to survive – love. It is love in all its many manifestations that intrigues me most of all as a writer: what we will do to win it or steal it, what emptiness of spirit is left behind when we lose it. In ‘Round Robin’ – as in all my novels – this theme, so pertinent to our modern age, lies behind all the rest.
The characters in ‘Round Robin’ are still poignantly alive for me, even though they have left my psyche to appear in all their human frailty within the pages of the novel. I hope they remain as real and unforgettable for you after reading it. I hope that it speaks to you. As an author, that connection with you, the reader, is all I wish for.
I strongly recommend any of Lesley Hayes’ books and if you enjoy them as much as I do, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon and Good Reads.