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IMAGO - extract
It didn’t start as a love story. It started with an ending.
In the chasm between waking and sleeping, life and death, she relives it over and over, unable to pull herself free.
There’s the still May evening, fat-bellied moon sliding inauspiciously across Pluto’s trajectory, and in the distance the murmur of the Torridge; or maybe it’s the light wind rising in the birches. An east wind, its skirts full of unease and conflict, billowing up from nowhere suddenly, setting the horses in the neighbouring field skittering, the hares leaping through tight bronze fiddleheads of bracken.
The air suddenly green with fear, then pricking with hate, ready to combust.
Anger. Her words, each one poison-tipped, aimed at the heart. Greg’s eyes, glittering under the moon, pale as frogspawn. His fingers yanking at the sleeves of her silk summer dress, tearing.
The car accelerating out of the drive in second gear, spitting gravel, away from the little white town, away from the party, roaring up the hill back towards Exeter.
The dress gaping like a wound and Annie’s hip aching from half stumbling half being pushed into the car, banged against the jamb. His cheek swelling and a sour odour coming off him. Her hand stinging. She can’t believe this is happening, this conflict; can’t believe it. Once there was love. Once she loved him; they loved each other. How long ago?
There’s the briefest comfort of horse sweat through the open window, then the saltmud tang of estuary; then only diesel and burning rubber. The engine shrieking.
Truck lights around a right hand bend and Greg swerving.
In its moment of unfolding the present becomes the past and, as history, is always fiction. So later she questions, over and over, did she imagine it? What is real? Because here, in this present moment, terribly, terrifyingly, Greg seems to throw the car to the right, straight at the offside corner of the lorry’s bonnet.
The instant before the impact stretching on and on, dreadful, soundless, tunnel-dark, empty, eternal.
The moment exploding around them.
She thinks she hears his neck snap, a sound like distant gunshot, chilling; then his face fading away as she slides beneath dark waters; but his mouth pursuing her, open, in shock, in agony, in triumph even.
The car spinning.
Noise; and then only the silence of blackness.
In the hospital bed her broken body convulses and she cries out; and again, as she will later in the camper van in her lover’s arms; then alone on a frozen March mountainside, suspended between centuries; and as she will, again and again, in the lonely ebb of l’Estang des Sangliers, where the square stone house fills up night after night with voices, trapping her in its unending darkness like one of the haunted boggy bottomless pools high on the Dartmoor of her childhood, in which she fears she may drown.
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Roselle Angwin is a Cornish author, poet, painter and environmentalist whose work has won a number of awards.
Under the Fire in the Head banner she leads an international holistic creative writing programme ranging from the ecobardic ‘Ground of Being’ outdoor workshops, through intensive poetry, to novel-writing based on the psychology of myth.
As a poet, she frequently collaborates with artists, musicians, dancers and sculptors, often on the land. Her poetry has been displayed on buses and cathedral websites, has appeared in numerous anthologies, been etched into glass, hung from trees, printed on T-shirts, carved into stone, metal and wood, painted, sung, composed to, choreographed, danced, performed—and eaten by sheep.
Imago is her first novel, and will be followed by a collection of prose poems, Bardo, then her second poetry collection, and a second novel, The Burning Season, again to be published by IDP.
Roselle has written a number of books on creative writing, and edited an anthology of the work produced by members of her ongoing Two Rivers poetry group, Confluence.
She lives in Devon with her partner, and has one daughter.
When Annie, a beautiful, inhibited and emotionally remote academic, loses her husband, and very nearly her own life, in a car crash in 20th century Devon, she has no idea that this will be the catalyst for a dramatic journey in search of some kind of healing.
Not least of the issues she has to face, while recovering, is her sense that the ‘accident’ was actually not one. In addition, the crash precipitates the onset of turbulent and violent psychic activity.
A year later she is attempting to make sense of her life. In the company of a colleague, Alex, poet, songwriter, musician, environmental activist, she arrives in the Pyrenees at a conference on the troubadours, the Cathars and the Grail legends. The time that follows is one of upheaval and catharsis.
In the warmth of Alex’s easy and inspiring nature Annie feels herself gradually beginning to thaw. For the first time, she can imagine herself living the life she needs to live.
But simultaneously a darker drama starts to unfold and then predominate. Without warning other than her own nightmares and, increasingly, hallucinations, she becomes caught up in the political and religious turmoil and persecution of 13th century France.
Alex, originally supportive but now increasingly alienated by Annie’s strange behaviour, and with guilt and grief of his own, leaves France abruptly.
Annie lapses further into despair and disorientation. She finds herself living out the last two incarcerated weeks of Isarn, a young Cathar priestess, or Perfecta, who was burnt in the siege of Montségur. This drama brings her, Annie, to the very edge of sanity and, once again, the borderlands between life and death…
NB: Montségur is a real place, and in the book I have been as faithful as possible to its sad and bloody history