Check out the blurb here...
'Their eyes met and locked. Pulling his hand from his pocket, Neville waved. Once.'
Eight year old Neville is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again.
Abbott, panicked by what he believes is a homophobic cyber attack, is on the run. The hut is his refuge and shelter.
Inevitably man and boy collide. Their fleeting friendship is poignant, honest and healing. But Abbot's past threatens to tear him away, as others watch and self-interpret what they see.
An evocative portrayal of two outsiders who find companionship on a lonely beach, Lynn Michell's novel is about the labels we give people who are different, and the harm that ensues.
And today I am very lucky to have Lynn Michell on my blog to talk all about child protagonists!
I run Linen Press, the only independent women’s press in the UK, as well as writing. Always writing. My fourteeen books have been published mainly by mainstream presses, and range from a writing scheme for schools (Write From the Start) to a book about children as passive smokers (Growing Up in Smoke) to an account of what it is like to have ME (Shattered: LIfe with ME). Recently I’ve revelled in the swich from non-fiction to fiction, rejoicing in the freedom it brings to be as creative and wildly imaginative as I want. Writing and publishing slot together wonderfully well. When I’m struggling with my own words, I put them on one side, don my editor’s hat and wrestle with someone else’s prose. That’s easier because I can bring an objective, fresh perspective when a writer is too close to her own writing to see where and why she is faltering. I’m the gremlin looking over her shoulder and pointing out the clunky bits or where things aren’t quite clear or where she’s needing to write more or less. It’s a knack.
As a publisher, I’ve noticed recently how many submissions are Young Adult rather than Literary Fiction and how many feature a child narrator. There’s been a definite sea change. I’ve been running Linen Press for 10 years and don’t usually pick up as many ‘coming of age’ stories as I am now. Women are writing about children and adolescents, and first love and wierd and damaging parenting, often narrated from the child’s point of view. In the Huffington Post, Sharon Heath says, ‘Whether the heroes and heroines of these books are precocious or tentative, suicidal or resourceful, disconnected or endearing, each of them bumbles along as we all did—as we all do!—without a handbook. Almost all of them suffer the mixed blessings of uniqueness and otherness, and a number of the current crop view life through the lens of autism—an apt metaphor in this age of preoccupation with iEverythings, where researchers are telling us our kids are losing the capacity to read facial expressions and social cues.’ Sharon Heath sees in child protagnists a chance for adult readers to revisit their own childhoods and to see them again with the wisdom of age and experience.
I too have a child protaganist in The Red Beach Hut. Neville is not your usual, boisterous eight year old. He’s an old head on young shoulders, an observer rather than a participant. I don’t label Neville because labels can turn an unusual personality into a medical diagnosis and there’s nothign wrong with him except he doesn’t fit the bill in terms of a conventional little boy. He counts things. He doesn’t miss much. He thinks and ponders and wonders. His mum is a sex worker so he has to walk up and down the beach some evenings while she sees ‘clients’.
He bent over his sandals again, his forehead as creased as a paper fan. ‘I’m ready.’
She came to him, bent and kissed his cheek. ‘You don’t mind, do you, going to the beach and playing by yourself for a while?’ She looked into his grey eyes until he answered.
‘Nope.’ It was honest.
‘It’s not for long, is it? Just ’til the clock on the pier says six-thirty. OK?’
‘It’s a nice evening. It will still be light by the time you come home. You can look in the pools. Count the crabs.’ She knew she was inventing pleasures and making excuses but what other option was there? Best to put a cheerful gloss on what had to be.
She bent down again and hugged him. ‘You know I’d like to come with you but some evenings I can’t. I’m sorry, son.’
‘I already said. I don’t mind. I like the beach. I like the sea. I like to count things.’
Of course Neville is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again and his imagination goes into overdrive. Always ready to take a hit, nevertheless he begins his tentative overtures to the man, Abbott, who seems to ‘have no anchor’ and in whom Neville senses a kindred spirit. And of course he longs for a friend.
I love Neville, a boy who has to put his jelly sandels on in the right order and who tells no-one he looks for mermaids on the rocks in the far cove and who feels sorry for the green boat that no-one sails. Abbott, the man in the red beach hut who ‘has the sea in his heart like me’ finds resistance impossible even though the last thing he needs is a stray child.
When he left the hut at five-fifteen, still sleep-drugged and lost in half-remembered dreams in which fingers played on pianos that turned into giant keyboards, he didn’t register the boy sitting under his window with his back against the hut wall.
Oh for heaven’s sake.
‘Please can I go for a walk with you?’
‘No. I want to walk by myself. Go away. You’re not to come here.’ Caught unaware, he didn’t temper his exasperation or disguise his anger. The boy looked up. Tears welled in his grey eyes. ‘That’s two people in twelve minutes who’ve told me to go away,’ he said wretchedly.
Abbott’s defenses are down and the walk turns into regular meetings and a friendship that is honest, open and compassionate. But Abbott’s past and the people who watch and misinterpret, threaten a quick ending to Neville’s magical week.
Thank you so much, Lynn, for appearing on my blog and for writing this great post!
Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3
Buy The Red Beach Hut here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Beach-Hut-Lynn-Michell/dp/1908600675/ref=sr_1_1?ie =UTF8&qid=1506877098&sr=8-1&keywords=the+red+beach+hut
Check out Lynn Michell here: http://linen-press.com/authors/lynn-michell/
Until next time :)