Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Today I’m sharing information about this uplifting story of love, loss and second chances that celebrates friendship and human connections – and an excerpt from it to see if it will whet your appetite for more!.
Netta Wilde was all the things Annette Grey isn’t. Netta Wilde was raw, unchecked and just a little bit rebellious. She loved The Clash and she loved being Netta Wilde.
Annette Grey is an empty, broken woman who hardly knows her own children. Of course, it’s her own fault. She’s a bad mother. An unnatural mother. At least, that’s what her ex-husband tells her.
The one thing she is good at …
the one thing that stops her from falling …
is her job.
When the unthinkable happens, Annette makes a decision that sets her on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention. Along the way, her life is filled with friends, family, dogs, and jam. Lots of jam.
Suddenly anything seems possible. Even being Netta Wilde again.
But, is she brave enough to take that final step when the secrets she keeps locked inside are never too far away?
Although most of Being Netta Wilde’ is set in the near present day, there are times when the main character, Annette Grey, looks back on key events from her past. This is a particularly traumatic event in her life that happened two years previously, over a family meal in their favourite restaurant. Colin is Annette’s husband. Liza and Will, their teenage children.
I hope this gives a flavour of the sort of person Colin is, that he would choose to break the news to her in such a public place, with their children reluctantly roped in. I hope too that it gives a feel for Annette’s state of mind at this point. In her eyes, the children are very much with Colin and against her. As the story progresses, she revisits this and other historic moments in her life and we see that her recollections are not necessarily as accurate as she thought they were.
They chose the Rajdoot.
They chose the Rajdoot to tell her. The place where they’d celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and all of her promotions. They chose that special place, to tell her they wanted a divorce.
‘It’s what we all want Annette,’ said Colin.
She gawped at him, incredulous. Not quite believing what she’d just heard. Her head jerked nervously towards the other side of the table, to Liza and Will. Surely, they didn’t want it too? Surely not? Surely, they didn’t want to force her out, to banish her?
‘Is this true?’ she asked them.
Liza and Will sat, red-faced and silent, their eyes fixed on their chicken kormas.
‘Come on Annette. Play fair. Can’t you see how uncomfortable you’re making them? This is exactly the problem I’ve been talking about. You have no idea how difficult you make things for us. You’re impossible to live with.’
She gasped, surprising the occupants of the next table. ‘That’s not true. It’s not true is it?’
She turned to her children once more. Again, they refused to raise their heads. Liza screwed her eyes shut. Will was concentrating on mixing rice with curry sauce. Steering it into a neat, flat circle on his plate.
Colin glanced around at the people in the surrounding tables who were pretending to be disinterested. ‘For God’s sake. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be. If you must have the truth, I’ll tell you. All three of us can’t stand your moods any longer. We’ve put up with them long enough. We’ve discussed it and we’ve come to the conclusion we’d be far happier without you. And you’d be a lot less miserable living on your own.’
She thought at that moment she would die. She felt her heart stop for a few seconds, then flutter back into life. A sickly phoenix rising from scarcely stoked ashes. And then nothing. Numbness. Stasis. Meanwhile, he was prattling on about soonest being best, a thinly disguised smile on his smug face. He was enjoying this, she could tell. He was in his element. She wanted so much to hit him right then. To pick up his vindaloo and throw it over him while it was still steaming hot. She imagined the momentary satisfaction of watching him screaming in pain. Frantically scratching around for the water jug to cool his burning skin and emptying it onto his face to soothe his smarting eyes. Yes, she wanted that so much, but she couldn’t do it. It wasn’t her style. Her style was one of quiet acceptance, when all the time a violent storm raged inside.
She sat, rigid. Completely still, when really, she was floating above herself, and all around them. But still, she couldn’t see into her children’s eyes. Instead, she saw herself begin to fold, to scrunch her body in tight, as if it were vacuum packed, in order to subdue the anger and malice seething beneath her surface. Her lips pinched and pulled themselves into a tiny, red ball. As if the pain weren’t enough, she chewed the inside of her cheeks until the taste of blood filled her mouth.
‘We’ll give you some space to think it over,’ he said.
They got up and left her there. Alone with her pent-up fury and, of course, with the bill. The final slap in the face.
From her window seat she watched them hurrying along the street. The children kept glancing back. She thought they were saying something, but she couldn’t be sure. Colin put his arms around them and they became a single, solid, six-legged unit all moving on without her until they disappeared around the corner and she knew they wouldn’t be coming back.
She buried her face in her hands and noticed it was wet. She didn’t know how long she’d been crying. No wonder they’d rushed out, and no wonder they’d been looking back at her. They were embarrassed. She scanned the other tables. All eyes seemed to be on her. Peering furtively over menus. Whispering covertly behind hands that barely concealed their purpose. The room suddenly felt hot and small. Her lungs grew tinier and tinier until all she could do was pant. She had to get out before she suffocated.
She delved both hands into her bag and rummaged around for her purse. Faster and faster she searched. Where is it? It has to be in here. It has to be. She was panicking now, throwing things out onto the table, until at last she found it. She pulled out some money and tossed it down. Then she gathered up her possessions, piled them back in and stood, so abruptly that her chair fell backwards, alarming the waiters and customers alike. Someone was calling her name, asking her if she was all right. She couldn’t stop. She ran to the door, wrenched it open, and fled.
She trudged aimlessly around the streets for hours. Her misery was a heavy weight and each step a huge effort. She found herself in a park and collapsed onto a bench. The warm summer breeze brushed against her damp skin and made her shiver. It was quite late now. The park was empty. She looked out onto the dark green space ahead and up at the vast sky, the colour of a fresh bruise.
A small grunt tried to push its way out of her.She closed her mouth and swallowed it down. Undeterred it pressed itself up through the back of her throat, coming out of her nose like suppressed laughter and causing a mild explosion to spill out of her nostrils. She wiped it away on the remnants of a soggy tissue and turned her thoughts back to them. Her family. The grasping gang of three. The club to which she did not belong.
Hazel Ward was born in a back-to-back house in inner city Birmingham. By the time the council knocked the house flat and packed her family off to the suburbs, she was already something of a feral child who loved adventures. Swapping derelict houses and bomb pecks for green fields and gardens was a bit of a culture shock but she rose to the occasion admirably and grew up loving outdoor spaces and animals. Especially dogs, cats and horses.
Strangely, for someone who couldn’t sit still, she also developed a ferocious reading habit and a love of words. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, along with a lot of angsty poems, and was absolutely sure she wanted to be a writer. Sadly, it all came crashing down when her seventeen-year-old self walked out of school after a spot of bother and was either too stubborn or too embarrassed to go back. It’s too long ago to remember which. What followed was a series of mind-numbingly dull jobs that paid the bills but did little to quell the restlessness inside.
Always a bit of a smart-arse, she eventually managed to talk herself into a successful corporate career that lasted over twenty years until, with the bills paid and the children grown up, she was able to wave it all goodbye and do the thing she’d always wanted to do. While taking a fiction writing course she wrote a short story about a lonely woman who was being made redundant. The story eventually became her debut novel Being Netta Wilde.
Hazel still lives in Birmingham and that’s where she does most of her writing. When she’s not there, she and her partner can be found in their holiday home in Shropshire or gadding about the country in an old motorhome. Not quite feral anymore but still up for adventures.
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