Catherine de Saint Phalle on writing THE SEA & US

Today we welcome Catherine de Saint Phalle to Booklover Book Reviews to discuss her new novel The Sea & Us, PLUS we have 2 copies to giveaway.

The Sea & Us - Catherine de Saint Phalle on writing her new novel

The Sea & Us Synopsis:

From the Stella shortlisted author of Poum and Alexandre: A Paris Memoir, this is a heartwarming novel about longing, absence and the people we unexpectedly come to love.

After many years spent living in Seoul, a young man called Harold drifts back to Australia and rents a room above a fish and chip shop called The Sea & Us.  Who he meets and what he experiences there propels him to question his own yearnings and failings, and to fight for meaning and a sense of place that can only be reached by facing what is lost.

By turns, electric, tender, and hopeful, The Sea & Us is a gem of literary imagination. Catherine de Saint Phalle brilliantly captures disparate characters and their common human desire for community and connection. Long after the last page closes, ‘we can hear the bell tinkle. Someone wants some fish and chips.’

Available in ebook or gorgeous little 192-page hardback

(Transit Lounge Publishing, October 2019)

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post we may earn a small commission to help offset our running costs.

Writing The Sea & Us

I started The Sea & Us in a sneaky way. I was intent on continuing a book about my grandmother who died burnt alive during the war, but this tiny something kept coming at me. It nudged me and nudged me. At first, it was as if I were privy to thoughts that were not mine. They kept coming in small waves, faint but persisting. I realised these waves were a man’s thoughts.

He was alone in a room. I could feel him, feel his own sense of his surroundings, see the light catching the blond hairs on his hands as he gazed at them. He had just arrived in Melbourne. I knew he was not lonely – he was marooned. Little by little, but also in incremental rushes, I became more and more involved. I stopped the book on my grandmother, and kept on taking notes about this chap.

Why was he there? Suddenly I discovered he was called Harold. I told someone I thought I had a character and a story coming at me from nowhere. What’s his name? I was asked.

His name is Harold.

Harold! That’s a ridiculous name! You can’t call him that!

I understood that name was outstandingly daggy. But it’s his! I thought. I shut up about it and carried on.

Harold had just arrived In Melbourne from Seoul. He had just broken up. He was of Czech heritage. This information was coming in every time I started typing. Soon, I got quite used to Harold always being there. I was thinking about him continuously – his idiosyncrasies, his fears, his memories, his need to make pottery. Then Harold started meeting people and remembering people.

I soon realised that I was writing a book about a subterranean feeling of abuse. Many people, writers in particular, but not only writers, live in post-traumatic stress. I had just finished reading all Chandlers’ novels, which I discovered later than is usual. I read his letters, his biography and discovered he had spent 3 months in the trenches in France. It was only mentioned in passing in the biography. His alcoholism was attributed to his father who had abandoned Chandler’s mother when he was a child. I felt there was something else, something deeper. I looked for more information and, sure enough, I discovered a book by Sarah Trott called War Noir. She describes Chandler as a member of the Lost Generation – a generation of writers traumatised by WWI. I read it from cover to cover.

And this brought me back to Harold. Harold, I always felt, was suffering from some deeper wound than his breakup. I did not know what is was. I had to find out.

I started writing that book before going overseas where I stayed for twenty months. I finished the novel in Essaouira – the city of the wind. It just blew and blew. It was boiling everywhere else, but Essaouira was cool. I was away from Australia and homesick. I love travelling, but this was something else. It was a distancing from life such as I had never known – I had been away for too long. Harold kept me together. Harold was lost too, but he kept his centre. And he kept mine. My life seemed to be twirling around me and nothing was real or stable anymore except Harold. In a way, he saved my life.

Get your copy of The Sea & Us from:

or from Transit Lounge Publishing 

Catherine de Saint Phalle on writing The Sea & UsAbout the Author, Catherine de Saint Phalle

Catherine de Saint Phalle is the author of five novels published by Actes Sud and Buchet•Chastel in Paris. Her novel On Brunswick Ground and her memoir Poum & Alexandre, for which she was shortlisted for the prestigious Stella Prize in 2017, are published by Transit Lounge. Australia has been her home since  2003 – some people find it later than others. In their migratory flight, dwarf geese don’t return to where they were born but where they learnt how to fly.

Worldwide eBook Giveaway

Thanks to Transit Lounge Publishing we have 2 ebook copies of The Sea & Us to giveaway. Open worldwide, entries close midnight 28 October 2019. See entry form below.

You can improve your chance of winning by:

The lucky winners will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page.

SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – See winner announcement.