Nancy Jardine posted a link to this fascinating article on Facebook recently. I was amazed. I knew about Mary Anning through reading Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures, but I’d never connected her with the well-known tongue twister:

She sells seashells on the seashore.

Well, that’s how I knew it, although apparently it should be:

She sells seashells by the seashore.

Remembering that again made me think of other tongue twisters:

Betty Botter bought some butter.
“But,” she said, “the butter’s bitter…”

 

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…

And our own family tongue twister, discovered while on holiday in Switzerland:

Das Schloss Spiez

TakingThePlunge

If you don’t know how to pronounce German, it should be something like this:

Dass Shloss Shpeetz

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Author of the Day

Mary Grand interests me for several reasons. One is that she lives on the Isle of Wight, which I’ve visited many times. My other half fondly remembers family holidays there. But the main thing that first interested me about Mary is her first novel, Free to be Tegan, about a young woman who leaves a particularly strict cult. The similarities to and differences from my debut novel, Neither Here Nor There, didn’t escape me. Now, Mary has a new novel out: Hidden Chapters.

 

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Letters from Elsewhere

Today’s visitor doesn’t even have a name in the novel he comes from: Free to be Tegan by Mary Grand. I’m so glad he has one now and delighted that he’s agreed to share such a beautiful letter, written to Tegan by a stranger on a train.

Dear “woman on the train”,

My name is Andy Davies. I am an art teacher and I am the man who sat next to you on the Birmingham train last March 1st. You might remember me as the man who embarrassed you by buying you a cup of coffee!

This letter is a confession. As I mentioned, I am an artist. What you have never known is that as soon as you left the train I drew a picture of you. You see your appearance was so extraordinary, not just your clothes but your whole demeanour. I had to capture you on paper. You were sat stiffly next to me trying not to let our arms touch.  Your body was tightly bound; legs squeezed together, arms jammed against your body. One red sore hand was clutching a horrible fake leather handbag and you were gnawing the thumb of the other. Your face was make-up-less, tiny, and lost behind old fashioned tortoiseshell glasses. Most notable was the large plain headscarf which covered most of your head; only a fringe of black hair dared peeked out underneath. You were so fragile and thin. I drew you wearing that extraordinary silver locket I’d seen you take from an envelope. It was very unusual, quite heavy, in the shape of a wheel, decorated with continuous Celtic knots that wrapped all around its circumference. You wore no other jewellery and I was aware that you struggled putting it on but instinctively knew you’d have hated me helping.

It was a good drawing, special even; I had caught you at a very vulnerable moment in your life.  Now the thing is, most people love having their picture drawn or painted. However even as I was drawing I felt guilty because I am sure you are not one of those people. In my head I promised that when I got back to the studio I would destroy the picture .

Now for my real confession. You see, I didn’t destroy the picture straight away. I took it back to the studio and worked on it.  It was good, really good; everyone who came into the studio seemed to be drawn to it.

Well last week I finished the picture and I was asked to exhibit it. Now this sounds crazy but I sat on my own with your portrait and asked you what I should do. Something terrible happened. You didn’t speak but you just cried. You didn’t tell me how, but I am sure you have been badly abused in some way. I have no right to exploit that.

This letter, with the picture, is about to be burnt.  I do hope from the bottom of my heart that one day you heal, find love and then you will be happy for an artist to paint the beautiful, lovely woman you are.

From the embarrassing man on the train, Andy.

Isn’t that beautiful? I reviewed the novel here. I loved reading it and hope you will, too.

About Free to Be Tegan

FreeToBeTegan-MaryGrand-Resized‘You are dead to us.’

Tegan, aged twenty seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and naïve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains.

This is the uplifting story of her journey to find herself and flourish in a world she has been taught to fear and abhor.

Guilt and shadows from her past haunt her in flashbacks, panic attacks and a fear of the dark. However she also finds a world full of colour, love and happiness she has never known before. The wild beauty of the hills, the people she meets and the secrets slowly revealed by the cottage all provide an intriguing backdrop to Tegan’s drama.

The novel is set in spring, a story of hope, new growth, of the discovery of self and the joy of living.

Free to Be Tegan is available on:

About Mary Grand

Mary GrandMary Grand was born in Cardiff and has retained a deep love for her Welsh roots. She worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught deaf children in Croydon and Hastings. She now lives with her husband on the beautiful Isle of Wight, where she walks her cocker spaniel Pepper and writes. She has two grown up children.
Free to Be Tegan was her debut novel. It is to be the first of a series of novels set in Wales. The second will be set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula. She has also published a short book of short stories: Catching the Light.

Mary adds: “Do send feedback to me at marygrand90@yahoo.co.uk”

FreeToBeTegan-MaryGrand-ResizedI don’t often post my book reviews on this blog, but this is a special book.

I was drawn to this novel before I’d read a word of it, because of the plot and its similarity to my novel, Neither Here Nor There. I was aware that this might lead to disappointment with the actual novel, but after reading the online preview I doubted that would happen. I wasn’t disappointed at all.

As I read it, I thought about the similarities between Tegan and my main character, Esty. I also considered the differences. But those thoughts belong in a different post. For now, I want to discuss Free to Be Tegan.

I was with Tegan all the way, silently encouraging her to find the right path for herself and to learn to recognise lies, wherever they come from. From the very beginning, where she’s among people she has grown up with but is now shunned by; to the outside world where she’s all alone; to people who care for her but don’t understand her and others who want to use her to further their own agendas; to the end, which I won’t reveal; I never stopped believing in Tegan and her story.

Several other characters feature in this novel, taking major or minor parts. Some of them seem all good or all bad at first. But as the story progresses, the good ones turn out to be not so good and the bad ones not so bad. In other words, the characters, like the plot, are true to life.

This novel should be read for its interesting and well-written story line. It can also be read to learn about the inside of a cult, as well as the difficulties of leaving one and acclimatising to the world outside. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: Despite the similarities between Tegan and Esty, including their former lives, I’m not implying Esty grew up in a cult. I just wanted to make that clear.

As it happens, one of the minor characters in this novel will be here this Friday for the series: Letters from Elsewhere.