This week, two of our Slightly Peculiar Love Stories authors got together (virtually). Coral Atkinson asked Susannah Poole three questions about her story in the collection, 'Mock Wedding'.
Coral: My reading of 'Mock Wedding' suggests that there are two conflicting strands in Eva's life. She wants to belong to the student crowd, yet she longs for a subtlety and romance that the group lacks. Was this your intention?
Susannah: It was my intention to have Eva in this conflict. On one hand she admires her flatmates and their friends. Watching them from the outside she thinks they're fun and effortlessly confident while she's shy and locked away studying seriously. After the wedding she is moving towards the realisation that the sweetness she longs for is okay. I think many people feel as though they are the odd one out when actually everyone is covering up things that they believe in or long for in the desire to belong.
Coral: The wedding dress and veil seem to have been a potent symbol in many famous works of fiction such as Great Expectations and Jane Eyre. Did you see your use of it as being in this tradition when you wrote 'Mock Wedding'?
Suasnnah: Without intending to — you are probably right! Jane Eyre is one of my favourite novels and Miss Haversham is one of the best, poignantly spooky, characters created. The wedding dress and veil are such loaded symbols, aren't they? They create the images of purity, happiness, vulnerability, beauty, and indicate a departure from one life to join another.
Coral: The fire and the firewood play an important symbolic role in the story; to me they appear to carry the idea of various types of love. Can you comment on this?
From the moment a baby is born there is the desire to keep them warm. We hold them to our chests and we tuck them snugly within blankets. This cosiness is associated with love, care and comfort, from those who give it and those who receive it. Maybe this is only in cold countries like New Zealand. I imagine in tropical places this same sentiment might be extended by keeping someone cool.
There is a great deal of work that goes into the chopping, splitting and stacking of firewood and so the gift of it is significant. There is the parental love given by Stig's parents who desire to look after him because, despite the lectures he gives them on their small-mindedness, he is still their baby. He may not realise or acknowledge it but in their eyes he will always be young enough to need their care.
When the fire is laid in Eva's room there are two kinds of love it may indicate. It may be platonic love and prepared by a friend who has sensed Eva is ill at ease and wants her to be comforted by its warmth. Or it could be, as Eva interprets it, a gesture offering the romantic love she craves; the 'in love' love that many young people begin to experience for the first time at this age.
Because I am someone who dislikes being cold, I believe that creating warmth in a large cold house would be one of the kindest and most loving things that someone could do for another.
On the night Eva agreed to be a revolutionary, the fireplace in the living room was filled with crackling flames devouring macrocarpa. The sap-scented smoke wafted into her bedroom where she sat at her desk in her sleeping bag, fully clothed and wearing a woolly hat. In front of her were highlighters and the draft of her essay ‘Indigenous Responses to Colonialism in 19th Century Art’. The happy chatter of guests arriving for the flat’s weekly video night was filling the house. Eva shuffled in tiny geisha steps to her door and listened. David was telling the tale of the firewood. Read more.
Thanks, Coral and Susannah!