The novel began life one Friday lunchtime in Henry’s, a restaurant in Sheffield that I used to frequent.
Seated at a small table by the window, was an old woman with fine white hair fashioned into small shell like curls, and a man, whom I took to be the old lady’s son. He had a deformed back and walked with a stick.
They both dressed with great style. I was entranced by the ritual of how they ate their lunch, especially the old lady; each mouthful was exquisitely devised and carried daintily to her mouth. I was so fascinated by the performance that the image stayed with me.
I do not know who they were, and neither do I want to know. The characters in The China Bird, Edward and Rachel, have now taken on their own characteristics.
At first, Rachel, Edward’s mother, was the main protagonist in the book, but gradually Edward gained his voice and pushed Rachel into the background, justly so, as the story reveals.
Where did Angela, the third main character, come from? I don’t know. Maybe there is a bit of me in there. I remember as a student being very lonely and thinking, this is not how it is supposed to be - but I think it is for many students. So the loneliness I portray in Angela’s life is proabably the loneliness I felt as a student.
To be continued ….