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Dipping into Novel #4, The River Days of Rosie Crow

Despite lockdown-kids-at-home-all-day-slow-progress (!), I’ve been working really hard on my novel, The River Days of Rosie Crow, and I’m over half way through the first draft.

I thought it was about time I gave you a small peek into the workings of this book, so let me start with the words which initially inspired me to write this story.

A couple of years ago, I was reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and I read these words in which she talks of women through the course of history, which stopped me in my tracks:

When…one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had lost a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, or some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to.’

These days, women are encouraged in the arts, but for too long, it was not an option for a woman to be a writer or a poet. So what would have happened to a woman who had this gift Woolf speaks of, that burns fiercely inside her, yet she is unable to use it?

These two simple words, ‘What If’ – are the lifeblood for any writer; the driving force for storytelling. So thinking about Woolf’s words, I asked myself these questions:

What if a young woman living in rural Norfolk in the 1800’s had a gift for words and stories, but she was illiterate?

This was how Rosie Crow was born. My setting is rural Norfolk near to where I live (as drawn as I am to foreign lands, I wanted to finally write an ‘English’ novel). Rosie is a weaver’s daughter, a child of her environment, at one with the river that flows close to her home, the wildflowers and trees and herbs that grow wild which she helps the local healer turn into medicines. But she is also a loner with a fierce imagination; she believes that the river, her most constant companion, tells her stories.

So, here’s the last What If for you:

What if Rosie’s stubborn nature, love of storytelling and inability to connect with others turns her into a scapegoat for the poverty, superstition and discontent brewing around her?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I’m really loving it. I am utterly immersed in rural Norfolk of the 1830s, trying to get my head around the Norfolk dialect, how deep superstition pervaded the fabric of everyday life and the endemic nature of sickness and poverty, also brought about by industrialisation which saw the demise of so much manual work.

It’s a fascinating journey for me, and I hope that one day you will enjoy reading about Rosie Crow as much as I have loved writing her.

The Mermaid (river) - Wikipedia
The River Mermaid,
close to Rosie’s home in rural Norfolk
Rebecca Stonehill

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you enjoyed it, you may like to read about and see some visual inspiration behind The Secret Life of Alfred Nightingale, The Girl and the Sunbird & The Poet’s Wife.

4 replies
  1. sustainablemum
    sustainablemum says:

    This does sound like a fascinating journey! I would imagine just doing the research would be so, but to write a novel and completely immerse yourself in that world is doubly so.

    Reply
  2. Rebecca Stonehill
    Rebecca Stonehill says:

    Definitely. I am absolutely loving it – I think if I had a clear fortnight I could just get my head down and finish the whole book … but that is on a parallel planet and I know I have to take a deep breath and just be patient right now.

    Reply
  3. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Your passion for your subject is clear, Becca. This sounds like a magical tale of such a mysterious place. Look forward to reading it. Jx

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Thanks so much Jen! It will probably be coming your way at some point to cast your beady eye over it 😉

      Reply

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