Letters from Elsewhere

Today I welcome Maria, who has stepped out of the pages of The Infinity Pool by Jessica Norrie to share her letter to Anna. MARIA is a young girl living in a traditional village on a beautiful European island, where her parents run a café located near the site of a rather unconventional holiday settlement.  Anna is an older, more sophisticated distant relation who lives in the city.

Dear Anna

I’m writing to ask if I can come and stay with you if things go wrong. I’m actually incredibly happy! But I can’t tell my family about it, and my friends here wouldn’t understand, so it feels fragile, and my instinct is to set up an escape route. I’m a bit sick of working in the café, as well.

Do you remember that odd place on the road going west from here? Where rich people come for those weird holidays? We may have driven past it when you were visiting, though we usually go the other way towards the port. They stay in little wooden huts and all eat together at huge tables and it looks so uncomfortable. We’ve always wondered why people want to holiday there, with no air con, no bathrooms or even windows. I wasn’t allowed near it when I was little, and never understood why until one day we saw a man and a woman in the woods together, with no clothes on. You know what I mean. I know what they were doing now, but I didn’t then. Since then I often see them sort of waving their arms about and chanting or just singing a very low note over and over again. Some are quite fit: they do head stands and turn cartwheels and sit for hours like those Indian gods we saw at the exhibition that time I stayed with you. The only time we see them in the village is when they get stung by sea urchins and come limping in to look for remedies. Stupid people – they should just use their eyes better in the first place. They always seem so sad too – you quite often hear them crying or sort of wailing and howling. So odd. They say they’re looking for wisdom but they can’t see the simple things. Anyway if they were wise, my father says they wouldn’t be forever lighting candles. It’s crazy: with no rain for two months, the forest is like a tinderbox.  We’re all on fire alert.

So why am I going on about them? Well, a few days ago the boss from there came in for a drink and we got chatting. He’s really nice! He talked about his work, and invited me for a proper look.  It didn’t seem nearly so peculiar when he explained it all and you know what? It was so different to have a conversation like that with a man. He was interested in what I said, took my opinions seriously, and made me see things in a different light, somehow. Gradually I began to understand what they’re trying to achieve – it’s a kind of inner peace and helping people develop. It must be a refreshing kind of job, not like my life of just staying on the island and never learning anything new. He has lovely eyes that smile when he talks. He must be much older, but he doesn’t dress or behave like the older men I know. He doesn’t boss me, or say I can’t do things. In fact we – well, it’s wonderful, that’s all. I feel alive, like my body and my feelings are singing. I thought I’d feel somehow dirty or guilty when that happened, but it was close and warm. Now I just want it to happen again and again! Maybe he’ll take me to London – that’s where he lives most of the year. It honestly doesn’t seem to matter that we’re such different ages, or that he can’t speak my language – and my English is improving all the time. We lie on the pine needles and he teaches me so many things. I never thought my life would take this turn. It’s a brilliant surprise!

But I do have to keep it secret. When I go there I have to pretend I’m asking about a job; the only island people there are cleaners, gardeners and cooks. Everything seems very relaxed but underneath it’s two separate cultures. If my family found out they’d be furious. I can’t imagine them liking Adrian (that’s his name). He teaches happiness! To all these groups of wrinkly women in swimsuits, and then, by ourselves, to me. I don’t think the old English women (they’re mostly English) like me much either. They’re always smirking at him, trying for his attention, and he’s more interested in me! Well of course he is. He must be as much in love with me as I am with him – look, I’ve said it. That’s why I may want your flat as an escape route, if we need to get away together. Maybe he’ll ask me to marry him! If he does I promise you can be my wedding attendant. Stuff what the family thinks!

Must stop as it’s time to open the bar. I think he might drop in tonight. Oh it’s so hard to hide how we feel about each other, though he’s much cleverer at it than I am… I’ll let you know what happens next.

Much love

Maria

About The Infinity Pool

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In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian is Serendipity.

But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

Published on Kindle Direct Publishing July 15th 2015 and in POD paperback July 29th 2015. No 1 in Australian Literary Fiction and Hot New releases September 2015!

Links to The Infinity Pool:

About Jessica

Jessica Norrie author photoJessica Norrie was born in London and studied French Literature at the University of Sussex and Education at the University of Sheffield. She taught in Paris and Dijon, and in the UK has taught English, French and Spanish to age groups from 5 to 80 in almost every educational setting possible.

She took a break from teaching when her two children were small, to study for and work as a freelance translator. She has also published occasional journalism and collaborated on a Primary French textbook (Célébrons les Fêtes, with Jan Lewandowski, Scholastic 2009).

Jessica sings soprano with the Hackney Singers, and wherever else she gets the chance in the UK and abroad. Less publicly, she plays the piano – slow pieces suit her best as she needs lots of time to figure out the chords.

She is fascinated by languages and has worked hard to make language learning approachable and fun even for the most nervous students.  But having always read voraciously, she would now prefer to concentrate on writing. “The Infinity Pool” is her first novel, drawing on many years of travel and encounters, and she already has several ideas for another.

Find Jessica on:

Jessica adds

I do have several free promo codes for Audio book reviews on Audible.com and Audible.uk if anyone would be interested, and of course am always happy to receive reviews anywhere else.

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