Island of lost souls

Island of lost souls

<p>First-time author Mary Horlock grew up on Guernsey, although she is not a native Channel Islander&mdash;her parents moved there when she was four, It serves as the setting for her d&eacute;but <em>The Book of Lies</em> (Canongate, March) where two members of the same family tell their stories, separated by 20 years. Catherine Rozier is a sulky teenager whose 1985 diary entries are interspersed with the account of Charlie Rozier, her uncle, who was a teenager when the island came under German Occupation during the Second World War.</p><p>Horlock describes the novel as &quot;a murder mystery in reverse&quot; as Catherine makes a startling confession in her first diary entry&mdash;that she has killed her best friend, Nicolette. Catherine relates the events which led up to the death of her friend in an authentic teenage voice&mdash;stroppy, self-conscious and yet very funny. Horlock explains that <em>The Book of Lies </em>was partly inspired when she began re-reading her own teenage diaries, about three years ago, and was surprised to find they didn&#39;t contain her innermost thoughts, and that she&#39;d turned the sometimes painful events of her life into a joke&mdash;&quot;with three exclamation marks&quot;. &quot;It wasn&#39;t emotionally honest,&quot; she says of her diary, noting that it was &quot;interesting to feel that sense that you even lie to your diary, so that was the starting point for Catherine&quot;. </p><p>Horlock grew up hearing stories about the Occupation from the grandparents of her school-friends and was fascinated by the idea that &quot;it&#39;s one history, supposedly, but one person&#39;s experience can be completely different from another&#39;s&quot;.</p><p>The second strand of the novel&mdash;in which Catherine&#39;s uncle Charlie recalls his own troubled teenage years during German Occupation&mdash;was influenced by the many self-published books on the subject which she found in the local library when she returned to Guernsey to do her research. Indeed, despite the title, she says the facts about the Occupation are all true. &quot;If you look at the history of the German Occupation a lot of the history is told through the personal voice . . . a lot of what we know has come from singular voices&mdash;and the ones that lived to write about it were teenagers at the time.&quot; She adds: &quot;People think that the Occupation in Guernsey is something people don&#39;t talk about, but actually everyone wants to talk about it. They&#39;ve all got a story to tell you.&quot; </p><p>Charlie&#39;s story frequently slips into patois, something Horlock took especial care to get right with the help of Miriam, a 94-year-old islander (although an enquiry about the best swear words to use was politely met with, &quot;The thing is, Mary, we never used this sort of language. The men might have spoken it but we didn&#39;t!&quot;).<br /><br /><strong>Creative ambition</strong><br />Holman left the island to read history and history of art at Christ&#39;s College, Cambridge, and then moved to London to take up a place on the Christie&#39;s graduate trainee scheme where she became a junior specialist in the modern and impressionist painting department. She then joined the Tate Gallery as a curator. She went on to curate the Turner Prize for several years as well as numerous contemporary exhibitions including Lucien Freud and Wolfgang Tilmans. She wrote about art regularly, contributing to the Tate catalogues and publishing a book about the artist Julian Opie under the Tate imprint. Although she enjoyed working with artists she comments that always being the facilitator rather than the creator became frustrating: &quot;the idea of just working on your own to produce things became more and more appealing to me.&quot; </p><p>Although from a family of artists&mdash;her great-grandfather was an official war artist in the First World War&mdash;Horlock comments: &quot;It&#39;s a very particular language, that visual language. I felt like words were a thing that everyone had access too, whereas art always felt to me like a separate language&mdash;I understood it and I really appreciated it but I never wanted to be an artist.&quot; <br />Having committed to writing Horlock now has several books in the pipeline. She&#39;s writing a non-fiction book about her great-grandfather and also working on the second book (<em>The Book of Lies</em> is the first) in a planned Island trilogy. &quot;A ghost story&quot;, it will be set on Sark, where Horlock spent her childhood holidays, which she describes as &quot;a place full of myths and legends, very richly steeped in pirates and witches, really isolated&quot; </p>