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The virtual realm is a funny old thing. You never know who is going to cross your path next. Take last week. There was I, wandering around said virtual realm in my virtual jeans and virtual football shirt, wearing my virtual glasses and my virtual smile, and from out of nowhere pops Emma Roberts. We got talking. About writing. It didn’t take long for me to realise that in terms of writing myself and Emma hailed from the same virtual planet. Hurrah! Doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it certainly deserves at least one Hurrah! Maybe two. Hurrah!
Emma mentioned she’d written a short story – The Stone Butterfly.
In this life of such brevity, there is no time to waste, so off I went and tracked down The Stone Butterfly . . .
She has everything. A huge house, landscaped gardens, a pool, a couple of Aston Martins in the garage…but yet she has nothing. A story of psychological abuse and domestic violence. One womans’ silent struggle for freedom in a gilded palace…
The Stone Butterfly tells the story of two and a half days in the life of Mrs Latymer, a woman living an empty life of fear and self-loathing in her beautiful home, awaiting the arrival of her emotionally abusive husband. I love writing that enables me to feel, you know, to really put me inside the character, to put me right behind their eyes. For that, the writing needs to have a certain quality of unpretentious realism. And Emma Roberts produces this in spades. Here is the opening, to give you some idea:
Tick. Tock . She mouths the sound. Her tongue flicks the back of her teeth with each tick, tock. She is conscious of the shape her mouth makes. With the tick it’s almost a half smile. The corners of her mouth widen. Her teeth are shown. Straight. White. With the tock it’s more like an O.
She sits at the island. Her coffee is cold, un-drunk. 10.10am. She notes it. Mentally. The repetition again . She closes her eyes. She looks down and she can see herself. Sitting. Alone. Even in her dreams she only can reach the ceiling. No higher. Not out of the house. For the house is her prison. With its marble columns, highly glossed floors, expensive interior design, indoor pool, seven bedrooms it has become her prison.
She opens her eyes. She is back at the island. She sips the coffee and watches the ripples settle back. Still. It is quiet. She is fully made up. Tanned. Fake. Young. She looks up and sees her reflection in the mirror. She looks down at her hands. Nails. Perfect. Fake. Diamonds sparkle. For a brief moment she sees someone else’s hands. Not hers. Someone else. Someone she does not know.
In twenty minutes Maria will come. She will come for two hours. For two hours she will clean. She will clean the already clean floors. She will make up beds that haven’t been slept in. She will make up her bed. But she has already made that. Twice. Just to be sure. It has to be straight . Neat. Maria will say ‘Buenos Dias Mrs Latymer. How are you today?’And she will reply ‘Wonderful, thanks Maria’. Maria will smile. A pitiful smile. Because you see Maria knows. Maria knows Mrs Latymer is not wonderful. In fact Mrs Latymer is far from wonderful. Mrs Latymer is dead. Dead inside. Not wonderful or rich or beautiful or lucky. Dead. That is how Mrs Latymer feels. Does Mr Latymer know? She very much doubts it. Maybe he does. Makes no difference.
The internal monologue is made even more effective by setting it outside the conventional first person narrative. Telling the story one removed, as it were, puts Mrs Latymer one removed from the reader, accentuating the ‘deadness’ she herself feels inside.
We sit with Mrs Latymer in trepidation, awaiting the arrival of her husband, trapped as she is, in her prison.
And we wonder what strength she has left.
Rarely does a writer blow me away. Emma Roberts writes with courage, using nothing but a pen of truth. Not a word in The Stone Butterfly does not earn its place. Every one of them is there on merit.
The Stone Butterfly represents a brilliant new voice in my reading world. I have with joy watched my writing friends over the last few years progress from writers of short stories to become fully fledged novelists.
I can’t wait for Emma Roberts to do the same.
The Stone Butterfly is available from Amazon UK here and Amazon US here
It’s been called ‘harrowing’ ‘very moving’ ‘so emotional’ – Read and see for yourself…
The Stone Butterfly is available on Amazon UK. Click here to purchase.