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Meet the author: Melody Razak

September 25th 2021

Moth by Melody Razak is undoubtedly one of my novels of 2021 so far.

The writing is fluid and lyrical and frankly stunning – and the stories of the female characters are drawn so richly, so deeply and with such compassion, it’s just extraordinary… The emotional journeys each of them goes on is breath-taking from the arresting first scene to the last. And the novel, through its intricate, minutely observed story, unravels this question and answers it with a flabbergasting compassion.

Many novels have dealt with the story of India going through Independence and Partition, but this one – seen through the eyes of its women – becomes a vehicle by which the author asks what different people are prepared to do to survive. It’s a thoughtful meditation on the journey of a victim to regain control over their destiny – not a light read but one that I think will speak to every corner of a female reader’s soul.

We caught up with the author to find out more.

Author’s note:

Moth grew out of a radio programme, Partition Voices, on Radio 4. I was at work, in the café, baking late into the night and the note of raw emotion behind the voices of those being interviewed, the survivors of Partition, struck my heart.

I started to think about story-telling, the nature of oral history telling, and the facts of history itself set against the more intimate and personal narrative. There was something behind what was not said, the spaces left and the empty nuances, especially by the women interviewed, that stayed with me.

Moth started with the burning desire to give these women a unique voice through fiction. I wanted to explore how women survive in times of trauma and crisis. How the hearth and domestic rituals become a lifeline. How something as simple as cooking food, telling a story, plaiting hair, can bring communities together when they have lost everything. These were the stories, I felt, that had been left on the side-line.

It is an absolute delight to have been selected by Love My Read and to be amongst such other wonderful writers. Thank you for taking the time to read Moth. I hope you enjoy it.

Q&A

What kind of person do you hope reads your book?

I would love as many people as possible to read Moth. Ideally, there would be no sense of exclusivity or limit to the types of people who pick up the novel and lose themselves in the narrative. In a way, I wrote the novel for other women, as I always seems to do when I write, but I think there are many men out there who would also be moved by the story.

What’s the most unexpected thing you learnt while writing the book?

Strangely enough, it was to let go of the finished work once I had sent it out into the world. I spent so long and so fully immersed in writing the narrative, that to be able to stand back with a critical eye, take on advise, make all those necessary changes, without feeling mortally wounded, to allow the novel to take on a new form, and separate to myself from that form, felt illuminating. I’m sure my writing is stronger for it now.

What’s your favourite first line in literature?

I come back to this time and again:

‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

But – if I’m allowed two…I read this recently and it touched a deep nerve:

‘Let me begin again.

Dear Ma,

I am writing to reach you – even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are.’

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong

Is there one book you wished you’d written? Why?

I recently re-read The Portrait of a Lady for the third time. I was stuck writing a character in my second novel, a tricky female character, and thought who best to seek advice from than Henry James. Isabel Archer, has been penned with exquisite precision, every turn of her head a further insight into the workings of her mind. She is a formidable heroine who makes a tragic mistake and as the reader you watch it unfold, knowing but still hoping against the outcome. James’s attention to the intricacies of character, and a finely tuned plot make it a pleasure to read and re-read. Old school story telling at its best.

What are you working on next?

I’m in the process of editing my second novel set in 1980’s Thatcher’s London. The narrative looks at what it means to be truly intimate, to allow vulnerability, and to love freely whatever the consequences; to transgress and step outside of society’s tight structures. There is a good dose of betrayal, some light BDSM, and a deep appreciation of Francis Bacon thrown in for good measure.

Extract

In a makeshift sling across her chest, she holds a sleeping baby. A swaddled baby who drinks in her mother’s scent, the promise of milk, and moves her mouth in quiet sucks like tight petals blooming.

In the dark corridor, she slips a hand into the sling, grips through the cotton the steel of a paring knife. Next to the knife is a vial of rosewater, next to the vial, a newspaper twist of tur ­meric.

She wishes she hadn’t promised. Only, the birth had been so hard, with the old stitches unravelling, and the girl had thought she would surely die. She had not known the child pressed to her chest could be so warm.

She clutches the baby now and walks outside, stands on the garden path. It is raining.

I was not expecting you, says the girl to the rain.

I’m here for you, says the rain. I’m not supposed to be here at all. This will confuse everyone.

Thank you for coming.

The rain is as good as her word. Hot rainwater falls so fast and thick, she can barely open her eyes. Puddles of mud swell in every hole and dent.

The hibiscuses are flowering. She has waited nine months to see them open, and now that they have, she walks past them, doesn’t see the petals like ripped hearts beckoning. Misses in the dark the red warning.

She walks confidently. Relishes the smell of wet earth and knows the path. She is not afraid of the dark. The rain pushes her forward. She lets it take her by the hand, by the elbow.

You should sing to her, you know, says the rain. It will help with the rebirth.

Yes. Sing, says the wind, just arrived.

What should I sing?

Sing the ancient myths. Sing to Kali. Sing to us.

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Happy reading!

Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x


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