I’m beginning to think of ‘Forgiven’ the second book in my trilogy ‘Between the Mountains and the Sea’ as the middle child, quite quiet, somewhat overshadowed by its more noticeable siblings. The eldest child, ‘A Good Liar’ was the first, long awaited, with a troubled pregnancy and long labour. When she arrived, to quite an elderly mother, she was greeted with delight and some surprise that she had ever been born at all. The youngest child, ‘Fallout’ created less trouble and worry in pregnancy, as by now the mother knew roughly what was going on and felt more confident. This new baby was louder and forced her way into the family with a freshness bordering on the brash.
Child number two ‘Forgiven’ came along quite quickly after her elder sibling but was in turn overshadowed by the youngest before she had found her place in the family. She is quiet, more thoughtful and perhaps too easily overlooked, but has a grace and charm all of her own. Secretly, for a mother must never admit to favourites, I love this middle child the most. She made me cry more as I created her, and still does. There’s a poignancy in the story, as Jessie Whelan faces her darkest moments, and makes the hardest choices. At the end her loneliness seems set to continue as she hangs on determinedly to her independence.
‘Forgiven’, is currently the least popular of the trilogy. It’s relative of course: all three books have been well received and sell steadily, but still boxes of the eldest and youngest books leave the shelves with greater speed, and ebooks sales have the same pattern. That means that some of my readers at least may not have read the full story told in the three books, which I’m sad about. Between my heroine’s early troubles and her eventual acceptance of love the quieter time is being overlooked. Set in 1947 Forgiven in some ways as ‘unforgiving’ as its context: the post-war years in West Cumberland were difficult. On the first anniversary of VE Day one of the local councils turned down a suggestion of a party to celebrate. ‘We’ve nowt to celebrate,’ they said, ‘and nowt to celebrate with.’ Unemployment, poor housing, rationing, coal shortages and the bitter winter of March 1947 added up to a cold, hard few years, before the resurgence into the 1950s. In my village mains electricity didn’t arrive until 1953, and only three years later the first nuclear power station was officially opened by the Queen, to be followed the year after that by the world’s first nuclear reactor fire, which forms the backdrop to the third book in trilogy ‘Fallout’.
History was moving so quickly then that the immediate post-war troubles were almost forgotten. And so it feels with the slower sales of the book that was set in those difficult times. But it remains – I believe – a much better book than its elder sibling, and a necessary precursor to the youngest of the three. In ‘Forgiven’ Jessie faces some of her inner demons and makes her worst mistakes as a mother. Maybe that’s why I have such an emotional attachment to this book, and wonder why it is seems to be attractive than its fellows. Maybe this is what happens with trilogies: does anyone out there know if the middle books of the three do less well?
If you’ve read this far and you’ve not read ‘Forgiven’, beg, buy, borrow or download it and see what you think, even if you’ve never read either of the others. Then go backwards to ‘A Good Liar’ for the backstory and forwards to ‘Fallout’ for the denouement. I love Jessie, and I want to see the middle years of her life, tough though they were, celebrated and enjoyed.