Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome a favourite of mine to Behind the Pen, Louise Allan, whose name you may recognise from yesterday’s book review of The Sisters’ Song. Over to you Louise…
What is your favourite…and why…
Character from one of your books?
In The Sisters’ Song, my favourite character is Ida. She’s everything I’d love to be. She knows what’s important in life and doesn’t give a toss about the rest—she’s got her priorities right. She sees the good in people, no matter how horrible they might be acting. She laughs a lot and makes the most of whatever challenges she has to face. She also recognises beauty, and sees it especially in children and music. Although she’s intelligent and talented, she’s blind to her own attibutes. She’s humble and selfless, and is the embodiment of family devotion.
Ida and I share a few characteristics, namely a love of children and music, and we have a similar sense of humour, but I wish I was a bit more like her in other ways!
Scene from one of your books?
I have a few favourite scenes, but as I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, I’ll choose this one. It comes from when Ida is staying at Milaythina, looking after the kids while Nora’s in hospital. Len, Ida’s husband, has come out to visit for the weekend and they took the children fishing. This scene comes from just after they’ve gone to bed that night:
‘That night, I lay on the couch and Len lay in the camp stretcher alongside. I rolled towards him in the dark.
“That’s exactly what we would’ve done if our boys had lived,” I said.
I rolled back. A moment later, I felt his hand fumbling for mine. I took it and slid out from under the blankets and lay alongside him in the camp stretcher. By the tender glow of the dying embers, I showed him how much I loved him.’
I like this scene because it shows the depth of Ida’s and Len’s love. Len really is Ida’s rock, although she sometimes takes him for granted. He supported her through her grief, letting her go to Nora’s when she needed to, and, for the most part, has set his own needs aside and let hers take priority.
In this scene, Ida acknowledges Len’s loss, too, and she’s letting him know he’s a good man. I also like that it’s a a sex scene—well, the closest I came to writing one!
Movie of all time?
That’s easy: ‘The Sound of Music’. I love everything about that movie—the storyline, the nuns, but especially the music and the young Julie Andrews. Our dogs are named after it, Liesel and Gretel.
Book that you always keep a copy of and recommend to others?
Gosh, that’s hard as I have a few books I evangelise about, but I’ll choose The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s not only a story about the English aristocracy during the war and the post-war changes in English society, but it also tells the very human story about a man so loyal and obedient that he’s unable to show his feelings. As a reader, that’s the story that moved me the most. I believe it’s as close to the perfect novel as it’s possible to get. As much as I would have liked a different ending, there was no other way this story could end.
Fashion accessory that despite having plenty of, you still keep collecting?
I’ll have to think hard to answer this question as I don’t believe I have too many of anything—in fact, I could do with a few more of most things! Perhaps I have a little pyjama obsession, though. I don’t know how many pairs I have, but I can’t walk past a Peter Alexander shop without purchasing something else.
Drink that you enjoy everyday?
Tea—I think I generate even more profits for T2 than I do for Peter Alexander. I’m into berry-flavoured teas at the moment, and I’m not often in the attic without my favourite cup—it’s a Christmas mug, but I like it because it’s large!
Treat you indulge in?
Ice cream. I have no self-control when it comes to ice cream, so I can’t keep it in the house. It’s a Friday night treat only, and there’s usually only a small amount left on Saturdays.
Place to be?
Definitely a beach. I love mountains and forests, too, but given the choice, it’s always an ocean, sand and warm, sunny weather.
Person you admire?
Michelle Obama because she’s intelligent, wise and kind. She’s the perfect role model for women everywhere.
Season of the year?
In keeping with the answer to #8, my favourite season is Summer, even though my skin, being pale and freckly, is really built for Winter.
More About Louise:
Louise’s first novel, ‘The Sisters’ Song’, is out now with Allen and Unwin. The manuscript has previously been shortlisted for the 2014 City of Fremantle—TAG Hungerford Award and awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship.
Louise grew up in Tasmania, Australia, but now lives in Perth, Western Australia. Her first career was as a doctor, but in 2010 she ceased practising medicine and took up writing. She has had several short stories, essays and articles published in literary anthologies and medical journals.
Apart from writing, Louise also enjoys music, photography, walking and nature.
You can get in touch with Louise in the following places:
About The Sisters’ Song:
Set in rural Tasmania from the 1920s to the 1990s, The Sisters’ Song traces the lives of two very different sisters. One for whom giving and loving are her most natural qualities and the other who cannot forgive and forget.
As children, Ida loves looking after her younger sister, Nora, but when their beloved father dies in 1926, everything changes. The two girls move in with their grandmother who is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talent. Nora eventually follows her dream of a brilliant musical career, while Ida takes a job as a nanny and their lives become quite separate.
The two sisters are reunited as Nora’s life takes an unwelcome direction and she finds herself, embittered and resentful, isolated in the Tasmanian bush with a husband and children.
Ida longs passionately for a family and when she marries Len, a reliable and good man, she hopes to soon become a mother. Over time, it becomes clear that this is never likely to happen. In Ida’s eyes, it seems that Nora possesses everything in life that could possibly matter yet she values none of it.
Over a span of seventy years, the strengths and flaws of motherhood are revealed through the mercurial relationship of these two very different sisters. ‘The Sisters’ Song’ speaks of dreams, children and family, all entwined with a musical thread that binds them together.