Ready for a new contemporary novel in 2021? I might have just the thing…
The Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Books (Century)
Date Published: 29 April 2020
Print length: 416 pages
Mary O’Connor has been keeping a vigil for her first love for the past seven years.
Every evening without fail, Mary arrives at Ealing Broadway station and sets herself up among the commuters. In her hands Mary holds a sign which bears the words: ‘Come Home Jim.’
Call her mad, call her a nuisance, call her a drain on society – Mary isn’t going anywhere.
That is, until an unexpected call turns her world on its head. In spite of all her efforts, Mary can no longer find the strength to hold herself together. She must finally face what happened all those years ago, and answer the question – where on earth is Jim?
I previously shared my thoughts on this book (you can read that post here) but, for now, here’s a Q&A with its author Abbie Greaves, featuring inspiration, alternative endings and future projects.
1. Hi Abbie, tell me a bit about your latest novel – The Ends of the Earth
The Ends of the Earth tells the story of Mary O’Connor, a woman who has been standing outside Ealing Broadway tube station every evening for the last seven years, with a sign that reads simply: COME HOME JIM. No-one knows who he is or where he has gone, until a plucky young journalist senses more beneath the surface…
It’s part love story, part mystery and hopefully a real page-turner too!
2. What inspired you to write this novel?
I had my first seed of inspiration for this novel while commuting to work in London. I was always fascinated by the people on the other side of the ticket barriers, those who weren’t flowing through onto the trains but who were, rather, waiting for someone they loved. It got me thinking about what you would do if you were waiting for someone who never turned up. How long would you wait and why?
3. Mary is my favourite character in this novel, which character was your favourite to write?
It’s hard to choose because I feel so fond of them all – but I’d have to plump for Kit, if pushed. I love that he has no filter, that he’s a little kooky and odd (his Spanish spurting, his obsession with budget spaghetti!) but with an absolute heart of gold, too.
4. Did you always know how you wanted to end this book, or did you have any alt endings in mind?
I always had this one ending in mind, once I had worked out what had happened to Jim. As a writer, one of the most important things to me is authenticity and this felt like the course of events that was truest to his character and lived experience. I did rework that epilogue a lot though. I hope it conveys a very powerful final image of Mary.
5. How does it feel to be publishing a novel during (slightly eased) lockdown?
A little strange! Like many people, I feel very discombobulated and that does take its toll. Equally, I’m hopeful that The Ends of the Earth will prove a real tonic for readers – there’s so much in the novel about resilience, patience forged in the fire, love and community and friendship. All very pertinent!
6. You’ve already got one novel (The Silent Treatment) under your belt, did you feel pressure when writing your second? Was there anything you did differently this time around?
With every book, there’s pressure – not least from me on me! I definitely challenged myself with this book. It’s by no means a carbon copy of The Silent Treatment; I wanted to ensure that there was plenty that readers of my first book would enjoy, but plenty different too. There’s more humour in The Ends of the Earth, a real myriad of settings and a much larger cast of characters. I absolutely loved writing it and so hope readers will enjoy it too.
7. Describe The Ends of the Earth in three words
Unique, redemptive, compelling.
8. Lockdown had a lot of us reading more than usual, what books did you pick up that you’d recommend?
My reading has really fluctuated this last year – some days I can’t read anything but the news and others, I’m devouring books. I’ve been enjoying Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale, The Four Winds), The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was one of my top books from last year too. Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews is a great piece of suspense, and I’ve been enjoying memoirs by Amrou Al-Kadhi (Life as a Unicorn) and Jake Tyler (A Walk from the Wild Edge). I’ll leave it at that for now – but I could go on and on!
9. Not giving anything away but I’d say the end of The Ends of the Earth is quite open, would you potentially revisit the book/characters in the future?
I’d never say never! The characters are still rattling around my head, and a certain few demanding their own story (Kit, cough, Kit).
10. I really enjoyed this book, and I know I won’t be alone in thinking that, are you working on anything at the moment? Is there anything you can tell us about future projects?
That’s very kind – you’ll be pleased to hear that I have some ideas I’m working on and excited about but I’m also very superstitious at this stage, so I can’t say anything more for now! Wish me luck…
The Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves is out now (Century, HBK, £12.99)
So that’s it, my Q&A with Abbie Greaves. I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Najma over at Hutchinson for not only allowing me to participate in this blog tour but also for letting this Q&A take place, and also a massive thank you to Abbie for taking the time to answer my questions. I loved finding out more about this book and I hope people enjoy it as much as I did.
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