Leslie and Mary (see the 2007 review below) have both passed away now but they will live on in our memories. My thoughts are with the family. EJG
A wise, elderly critic, Cumbria, December 2007
I really enjoyed reading Fusion whether because I know a little of the authoress or because I liked the story. It is certainly very
thought provoking and I am waiting for the follow-up. Why are books often in
a trilogy and not a bilogy or a quadrilogy? Don't answer. Change in
attitudes is happening but cannot be rushed but maybe can be slowly eased
along. Keep up the effort and be nice to your business manager as he is worth it as you know. Best wishes to all three. Love from Leslie and Mary.
EJG: Thank you Dr Les. I cherish and respect your opinion, as always. You're right - my business manager IS worth it. Love to you both and the family. X
So far three people reading 'The Cosmopolites' have mentioned tears and belly laughs. Some are saying, 'I'm loving it' (sincere I hope) and only one has threatened to sue (joking I hope)!
Can't be too bad then, apart from the odd cliche and confusing red and roe deer - and the epilogue not being needed - and you tell me ...
E J G
September 19th 2008: A brief acquaintance.
Fusion is a rich meeting between creativity and life experience.
August 21st: A friend
Fusion's very philosophical, isn't it?
EJG: I suspect you could could have done without it being so heavy on the philosophy. Am I right Lesley?
July 25th 2008
From Chris Bennett, a fellow Swanwick writer
I have to confess I have only recently read 'Fusion', having purchased it so long ago at Erskine. Congratulations for giving me such a memorable read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I either had a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye, or both, as I read the second half of the book.
You have such a way of touching the emotions of the reader. I do hope your book will be read by the many who fear the differences of other cultures and religions. See you at Swanwick.
All the best,
EJG: Thank you so much, Chris, for the kind words. It makes it all worthwhile when someone gets the 'message'. Looking forward to seeing you. (Will add your name if you allow me to.)
May 27th 2008
J. from Scotland says
I enjoyed the book very much & could hear you speaking all the way through it. The story is very intriguing and kept my interest and focus throughout.
I did find however that the depth of detail of the political situation in Kenya rather confusing and detracted from a good story. I realise that the situation is something you feel deeply about, but I wonder if it adds to the story as the politics takes over about two thirds of the way into the book. I also wonder why you added the chapters "In Retrospect" and "Fusion". As a reader, I would like to have been left waiting for book 2 to find out how the romance did or did not blossom. The good in depth explanation of "Fusion" perhaps could be used at the very end ie. book 3.
These are minor criticisms of a well written, enjoyable book, and I hope you don't mind an amateur critic's views.
EJG: Hi J. Thanks for the feedback.
I would say your amateur critic's view is pretty sensible. At first the book was going to be the Chapters 1 to 24 where Ella left on the jet plane and then I was persuaded that 'Fusion' had more to say, so first The Prologue, then The Foreword, In Retrospect, Fusion and The Epilogue just grew out of it. Maybe they should have stayed where they were - except they did get a few people thinking. What they have done too is make the writing of 'The Cosmopolites' harder. (I think perhaps I thought the second book wouldn't get written - but now it's nearly finished.) Thanks for the kind words too.
July 30th 2008
Advice from a literary agent:
Thank you for sending me FUSION. It's a lovely, warm book which you have
published very well. Congratulations.
Not something (well-known literary agent) could represent though as in the current market we would struggle to find you a trade publisher.
Debut autobiographical novels/memoirs, unless hugely marketable due to outstanding literary merit and/or celebrity status, are terribly hard to place. Grim but true and as trading conditions in the industry are so bad at the moment even tougher.
Finding yourself an agent for subsequent novels would be a good idea but should not preclude you self-publishing again as increasingly, it is becoming a way of getting your work noticed.
Good wishes and all the very best with your writing.
EJG: Thank you for what is undoubtedly good advice.
Eleanor Love from Alyth says
Funny you should email me this strange picture today as I have just finished your book!
I thoroughly enjoyed it and could hear you clearly telling me the story. I got a bit bogged down with some of the politics and realised just how little I knew about what was happening in Kenya when you were there.
It is also so amazing that the Fusion you talk about actually is happening...when we were students we would never have believed just how much mix and matching there would be when we were this age...did we ever think we would be this age!!!!!!!!!
I ordered your book from Waterstones in Elgin and it arrived just after I had gone to OZ to see Forbes. I had a great time there and then had a week in Dubai with another friend. Back to porridge and old clothes now though. Our new house has started and John is delighted with himself and his new project...goodness knows when it will be finshed.
When is the next book coming out! All the very best for it! Love Eleanor
EJG: Thanks Eleanor. I'm glad you enjoyed 'Fusion'. You're right - we never did think we'd be this old or that the world would be this interesting! I hope I've managed to inject a bit of fun into a topic that could be a bit tense or contentious.
The next book's nearly ready and the third one has a new title, 'The Not Quite English Teacher' and another chapter.
Love, Liz - or Eliza Jane as Aunty Jean frae Aiberdeen ai (sp.) called me.
From another writer who lives in Wales:
Evan J. Jones to me
May 21 2008
I've been meaning for ages to e-mail you to say how much I've enjoyed reading your book. You write incredibly well, and the subject matter is so different, with Isabella Mackay's story being a microcosm of a much larger problem (which is still ongoing). I love the first chapter, which brought back memories of my own schooldays in a small village school ( a few years earlier perhaps!) Life in Africa is a real eye-opener - I vaguely remember the Mau-mau problem, but it seemed very remote and faraway at the time. The characters are extremely well-drawn, and the story has romance and mystery, with the reference to real people and events enhancing the book. I hope your other two novels will be available soon - I look forward to reading them.
It now seems quite long ago since we met at the SAW Conference in Glasgow - I enjoyed the week I spent up in Scotland, and am looking forward to another visit. I was so pleased that your sister, Margaret, did so well, and hope that she will get her winning novel published before long.
I'm spending a lot of time bowling and enjoying the sunshine in Llandudno, and try and do as much writing and painting as I can. My problem is laziness, as I find it so much easier to think about doing things than actually doing them! The youngest of my four children, and only daughter, got engaged recently so I'm hoping all goes well.
Although I rarely read books more than once I am thinking of reading 'Fusion' again, as I feel that I need to think deeper about some of the problems that you have raised. I hope the book sells well, and that there's much more to come.
With very best wishes and kind regards,
EJG: Thank you Evan. It means a lot to hear kind words from a fellow writer. Enjoy your thinking time - I look forward to reading the writing it leads to. Best Wishes.
March 29th 2008
Dr John White, Dorset.
I loved your book. Every now and again a book comes along - out of nowhere - which seems like it's going to go far - and Fusion is one of those. I hope you don't mind but I have passed it on to my daughter who is in publishing to see what she thinks.
EJG: Thank you, John. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.
A fellow LA fit lady
I thought the book was going to be simplistic but I see it's growing up with the main character.
EJG: Thank you Suzanne. That's exactly what was intended.
Another LA fit lady
I'm really enjoying it - it's easy to read - but a bit of a dream - as it can't ever happen - and it's funny too.
EJG: Thank you, Rachel. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story.
March 8th 2008 -stormy weather
Former colleague in Zambia (early 1970s)
I'm sitting in a hotel room in Arklow Bay, around thirty miles south of Molly Malone's town. A power cable is going to be laid from here to Y Felinheli in North Wales, just down the road from Bangor. A company called EGS is doing a survey for a company called OSS and I am here to represent their interests and make sure they do a proper job.
'Tis a lonely life though, away from loved ones, but most necessary for survival.
Meanwhile, I really must congratulate you on your mammoth effort in writing Fusion. I am nearly finished reading it, will probably complete tomorrow when sat in the smallest room - well done indeed Liz!
I hadn't really recognised your strong politics before; ... ...
But really, very well done indeed! I am really enjoying it, your slightly fey way of writing is quite endearing and Ella sounds eminently fanciable.
Give the old fella' my love - and to you too,
EJG: Thanks PQ! It would be wonderful to be Ella. Thanks for thinking she's me. As she's not me, Ella, who is so hopelessly (or should that be hopefully) naive, can say anything she likes - but I don't necessarily have to agree with her. The old man wasn't a spy either - as far as I know.
That's got you thinking ... I hope.
P.S. With reference to the smallest room, the old man says ( as Ella never could of course) he hopes the book helps you through some trying times. He hasn't changed.
I have read your book. What an interesting life you have had ...yes I know that it is part fiction but you have obviously met up with some of those situations. As a matter of interest, why did you choose to write fiction rather than an autobiography.?
The first part was more autobiographical in style.. and I felt that there were rather a lot of 'wees' but then I'm not Scottish! The beginning of the book felt as if it was being written for a child and yet there were adult references that would not have been understood by children.
I particularly enjoyed the second part of your book as you developed the more adult relationships and built up the tension.
It must be very exciting for you to have the time to write for yourself instead of writing comments on children's work!
The theme of Fusion is perfect.
EJG: Thanks for the comments Janet.
I chose not to write an autobiography because so many situations, characters and events were changed. Anyway, it has been said that if you want to tell the truth, write fiction.
I DO agree with you that there are too many wees. I'm changing the wees to smalls and littles - where they don't detract from the Doric feel.
The childlike language is intentional. The format is bildungsroman which follows the development of a character from childhood to maturity - and the changes of attitude which occur.
I hope that answers your questions.
February 20th 2008
From a fellow teacher - hidden somewhere in Fusion - but only a little bit. The characters are mostly fictitious!
Thank you so much for your amazing book - I have finished reading it. It is really well written and I loved the combination of love/life story and historical/political facts. Certain landscape descriptions really stayed with me - you brought it all to life and it felt like you'd just experienced it just yesterday. Congratulations. I have bought another copy for my friend who is also an example of fusion with her Sudanese husband and four children living in London. The whole concept of fusion and multiculturalism fascinates me too. Thank you for opening my eyes wider.
EJG: Your message makes me feel it has all been worthwhile! Thanks Martina. x (Not sure if I mean the life or the book.)
P.S. from Martina. I almost forgot to thank you for Helga!
EJG: Oops - rumbled this time. Just wait for the next book!
February 12th 2008 - from Richard Eliasen in Nanaimo. Vancouver Island, Canada.
EJG: Thank you for the kind words! X
I just had the pleasure of reading Eliza Jane Goes (Ella MacKay)'s first book "Fusion" and felt a strong need to thank you for this great read. Having experienced Scotland and England in the past and recently Kenya, I could, for the most part, relate intimately to the story, locations and vocabulary of this wonderful novel. I really enjoyed the book (and the message) and look forward with interest to your next novel hopefully in the very near future. Keep the message coming, Baby!!!!!!!!
February 6th - from a daughter's school friend aged 23
I hope you are well. Just to let you know I have read your book (as I love reading) and I thought it was very good, especially as it's your first novel! My mum and I were very impressed when we learnt you had written a book!
You have a very good way of describing all the sights and sounds in your story and this made it easy to imagine and picture all that was going on! I wish you luck with your future novels and keep us posted on their progress!
Olwen Hawkins x x
EJG: Thank you Olwen. I'll be in touch.
January 21st 2008
An exciting phone call:
I've finished your book and it was a really good read. It's the first book I've read all the way to the end since 1968.
(EJG: You don't know how good that makes me feel!)
Kay Hoare, aged 88: February 1st 2008
My carer, Dee, lent me your book and I always read a bit every night, with my cup of tea, before I go to sleep. I got right into the story and I really want to know what happens to Ella. I'm 88 and I think it's the best book I have ever read so far. I've got to the bit in the church in Africa. I'll let you know what I think of the rest of it when I finish.
EJG: Thank you Kay. There is a copy with your name on it waiting to be delivered. Enjoy the rest of the story.
Comment from a ten year old: Thank you Alastair!
CHILD:'I like the pretty fusion in the sky; it's like a floaty cloud.'
EJG: What d'you think fusion means?
CHILD:'It's together, isn't it?
EJG: Absolutely. That's exactly what I meant. Everybody in the world should be together.
Who says simplicity isn't profound?!
11th January 2008
A lovely letter: Thank you Baiju.
I just wanted to drop you a note to say how much I enjoyed your book 'Fusion'. My mum gave it to me for Christmas. I really enjoyed reading about Ella's experiences in Kenya. I guess what is going on now must make you feel very sad.
Here's hoping that your view about Fusion which I found very refreshing and inspiring comes true in the years to come.
10th January 2008
I had to write and congratulate you on your first novel, one of many I hope.
Your beautifully written story of Ella's life in Scotland and Kenya was enthralling, based I presume on your own experiences. The recent violence in Kenya seemed even more tragic as it was happening when I was reading about how the country was developing in the 60s.
(EJG: Thank you Val!)
The family think it's our story (my husband's and mine). In a few ways it is - but in many ways it's the story of millions of other migrants and people with cosmopolitan lives and views. Fusion of cultures is happening and it doesn't seem as if it's ever going to stop.
(A friend since late childhood)
Fusion - (aka locally as Fooshun!)
As planned I delayed reading your book till after the kerfuffle of Christmas as my reading then was a few minutes at bedtime and then the same pages the next night as I couldn't remember them! So I wanted to have time during the day as well in order to read Fusion in a smoother sequence. And this week, I did!
Well, what to say? Or more accurately, how can I organise my comments? I suspect that this may take more than one session so don't be puzzled if there is a lack of cohesion. I suppose the first thing to say might be that I can now see why the book 'poured out' of you as soon as you retired as it reads as something that has been forming itself in your head for a very long time. This is good as it runs very fluently and there is no lack of structure [as in this email, probably] Before reading I wondered how you planned to handle so many years of history/life/emotion/experience/et alia and in the end you did it very well. I liked that you did not spend a disproportionate amount of time on Ella's development up to 1968 but ensured that the aspects that would influence Ella -- and the whole book -- were clearly shown within two chapters.
And now: 1968/69! Here's why details of the first 21/2 years of Ella's life would have been unwise in that you can now plunge the reader into a total immersion experience, not of a week in London, but of two years in Africa. And what an experience! You have captured the sights, the sounds, the colours and indeed the very character of Kenya as well as the characteristics of the people you meet and enjoy so much. Your own -initially tentative -- emotions grip the reader almost as much as they gripped you and, as you grow to love the country, students, colleagues, lifestyle and the magical contrasts of life in Africa, so too do we, the readers. I see in my mind the young Ella [funnily enough with Liz's face] in the classroom, out and about, sharing the evenings with like-minded company, meeting John and experiencing the first stabs of the burgeoning love which would eventually surmount the difficulties thrown up by geography, tradition, religion and politics to flourish in cosmopolitan London. I mentally applaud Ella as she gives responses and makes comments which always promote the underdog in a situation - whilst recognising from my own advanced age the naivety which abounded in us all then, no matter where we found ourselves. I think the quick dash up to 2006 in Chapter 17 does really have the effect of a swimmer coming up for air and, realising that there is still quite a way to go, getting back to it with renewed vigour.
We progress to the end of chapter 24, when Ella leaves [on a jet plane] for Scotland and the main narrative is done. Then we have chapter 25, in which the narrator adopts the first person [Ella] but, for those who know her, Liz. Chapter 26 reverts to third person and then we have an Epilogue. If I'm being honest it seems to me that this book was finished after 24 plus maybe an epilogue which also provides us the info in the first para of 25. I think I might understand what happened here: when writing or speaking at Uni, I always found it really hard to stop. I had loads I felt needed to be said and frequently found that I edited, added, subtracted and explained rather too much and that my first sense of a conclusion was usually best after all. Now if I [just an example] found it hard to conclude an essay, how much more difficult must it be to decide when a WHOLE BOOK is sufficient and how very tempting just to do a PS and a PPS and PPPS......... Do feel free to disagree totally with this whole comment........ What do I know? We learn that more news of Ella & Ricky will be forthcoming, happily, so perhaps that's all we needed for now.
Characters! I must confess that there were many characters that seemed familiar to me and it was curious that your name pool included: Ella, Charlie, Mackay, Mary, Hardy, Willie, and Hamish - to name but a few. Also very recognisable were your Mum and Dad's traits and sayings here and there while the notion of "falling into pigshit and coming up smelling of roses" has long been accepted of you, Liz! It was a nice touch to bring in 'Jimmy Thurso' and I nearly fell off my chair laughing when the long-deceased Copland popped up to enliven a story! What a nice epitaph for him. You have said that the characters are fictional or composites and so I must accept that but I did feel that I recognised most of the people, stories and comments that were made. You even included the guy who used to live at Woodpark [?] with the double-barrelled name and twins [Davina?]. What was completely new to me was the secret work done by John/Ricardo in your book and I'm curious to know whether this was a] true of Gerry b] true of another friend or c] fictional, based on contemporary happenings. Do tell!
I very much doubt that you would even pretend that Ella does not share your gentle nature or your passionate belief in justice for all, and the bravery which has led you, head held high, into many situations that others with less courage, or a weaker moral compass might not have negotiated so successfully. And if YOU would deny that these are also your qualities, let's ask Gerry & Gemma.
But, guess what? One of the main emotions that stirred in me when reading 'Fusion' was pure nostalgia, evoked by names and memories, historical facts and - very largely - by the music you talk about and sing too. As I read, so many [much younger] people peeped over my shoulder --your mum and dad, Charlie, Margaret, you yourself and Gerry too, plus many other faces, some ghostly, from that era which was so huge in your life and in mine...
All in all, Liz, I think you deserve huge congratulations on your first novel. I found it fluent, descriptive and evocative on many levels. What I cannot decide is how it would strike me if I were unfamiliar with your background.I may ask a friend to read it largely to supply an answer to that. I do think that my personal awareness added an extra dimension of involvement with Ella's story, and enjoyment in the reading of it but I also feel that this knowledge is a plus factor and not a basic requirement. In other words, Liz, your book, FUSION, is a first-class read! Many congratulations on having invested so much time and energy in bringing this to fruition - and in making such a good job of it.
(EJG: Thank you for the kind words,Janet. They mean so much to me especially coming from someone who has been so important to my past. Ricardo the spy is complete fiction, by the way and the reason for chapter 26 was THERE WASN'T ENOUGH FUSION IN 'FUSION' - if that makes sense. But I agree it's a bit messy and repetitive. If there's a reprint there will be an edit to sort it out.)
Friends and colleagues:
'I've loved it. I could hear you talking throughout and I recognised some of your sayings - and it made me think. It's such an important theme for today. But did you realise that Dame Kelly Holmes seems to have two mothers on page 294?
EJG: Oops! Dame Kelly Holmes has a Jamaican FATHER not mother. Definitely need that edit!
Group of colleagues:
We were reading out bits of your book last night and enjoying a good laugh - I think we were there a bit, weren't we?
EJG: Maybe bits of you - but only for fun - and something to hang the ideas on!
From nephew Ian in Canada ( No bias there then)
Dear Aunty Liz
I've just finished reading 'Fusion' and I'm glad to hear you have a couple more books in the pipeline! It was very enjoyable, both as a story and as a personal insight into the overarching issues of migration and cultural integration.
My favourite part of the book was the scene when Ella goes to visit Mike and his family on the farm. It was full of charm and emotion. Despite the fact that Ella is a fictional character - I couldn't help but think of you as a youngster traipsing through Africa and getting into all kinds of adventures. I see my Aunt in a whole new light!. I really do admire you for being so artistic and creative and being willing to share your work with the rest of the world. It is obviously a very rewarding and personal achievement.
Keep up the writing!
Lots of Love
'Hi Liz (again no bias)
I went to Borders to get your book. On the way home my daughter Catriona (11) did a quick 'review' which I thought I would pass on.
She read the blurb and said it sounds like a good book
She said she liked the feel of it in her hands.
She liked the way the word Fusion was written.
But she thought the picture of the 'pot' looked out of place against a natural background. It looked a bit like clip art.
Could this be your first review even before reading the book!'
A bookshop manager:
'People in Moray will never buy this. It's not like London up here.'
(The author disagrees. There are many well informed, open-minded Moray folks. She was born among them and grew up with them - and taught some of the younger generation. A close reading of the book (especially Chapter One) will show that a tribute is being paid to the inspiring education the youngsters in the 50s and 60s received in at least one primary school in Moray.
The book asks questions. It does not presume to provide answers.)
An experienced editor
'A clear, lively style which flows well. It could have done with one more edit - to smooth out one or two commas, wrong words and awkward sentences. Some very good writing - despite a couple of attempts to finish the story.'
(The author agrees - will consider changes if there is an opportunity.)
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