Carolyn Mathews, who lives in south east England, started her writing career by producing reading books for English language learners. Since retiring from teaching, she’s been inspired by an interest in the mystical to create contemporary fiction which she hopes will satisfy both the heart and the soul of the readers. Her husband, an ex-police officer, has no literary ambitions, but her two sons are both creative, the younger being a computer games producer and the older writing plays in his spare time. Her grandson, Henry, is only just learning to read and write, so who knows? She is flying the flag for all latecomers to fiction writing. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old to start. Follow your dream, but don’t expect miracles to fall out of the sky. Miracles happen, but they have to be accompanied by perspiration as well as inspiration!”
We meet Pandora at a crossroads in her life. Mike, her first love and second husband, has just died from a heart attack and she is feeling overwhelmed with grief. He was the love of her life, her soul mate, now she is questioning how she can go on without him. Her former employee talks her into attending a service at a spiritualist chapel where a clairvoyant tells her that Mike didn’t suffer and that he loved her. Pandora takes all this with a grain of salt but, towards the end of the evening, a Higher Spirit comes through, instructing her to start meditating so she can connect with him. That evening, she begins to reflect on her past, returning in her thoughts to the 1970s, when her heart was broken for the first time. As with all things in life, particularly Pandora’s, everything happens for a purpose, especially when she has someone like Enoch, the mysterious spirit, leading her towards her ultimate destiny.
Fascinating, interesting, introspective and well written, this could be your story or someone else’s, but regardless, it is a story about coming of age, at whatever age that may be! ~ Bluewolf
Character Interview – James Jay, former blues-rock star
Transforming Pandora and Squaring Circles
Q Where were you born?
A West London, a place called Shepherds Bush.
Q Do your parents still live there?
A Nah. I’ve never seen my dad and I thought my mother was my sister until I was about fifteen. Then I found my birth certificate and worked it out for myself. The woman I’d been calling “Mum” was really my grandmother.
Q Do you want to elaborate?
A My birth mother got pregnant when she was sixteen, went away somewhere to have me, stayed around for a couple of years, then emigrated to Canada, leaving me behind. I suppose my gran was trying to protect me, letting me think she was my mum. She always talked about my “sister” Sharon in Canada.
Q Did you have a grandfather?
A Yeah, I remember him. He was nice. Kicked a ball around with me in the garden. But he died when I was three.
Q Is your father’s name on your birth certificate?
A That’s the embarrassing bit. It says “father unknown”.
Q Did you ask them who your father was?
A Course I did. My gran didn’t want to say, but I kept on until she told me. She was a daily housekeeper for a doctor who lived in a big house down the road. He had a friend from Kashmir staying with him. He’d come to England to give some lectures or something. Anyway, she wasn’t very well and she sent Sharon round there to do some of the cleaning for her. Then Sharon started, you know, putting on weight. She told my grandparents who the father was, but they didn’t believe her until I was born. Then it was obvious.
Q How was it obvious?
A Sharon’s blonde and blue-eyed. I’ve got black hair and a permanent tan. Go figure. Anyway, I don’t really like talking about it, can we change the subject?
Q Okay. Who’s the love of your life?
A A girl called Pandora. Well, she’s a woman now. We used to be married but I screwed up…
Q How bad?
A As bad as it can get. I got another woman pregnant. Her name was Debbie, she worked for the band’s management company. James Jay and the Jaylers were big in those days. We ended up having five kids. Me and Pandora never managed to produce any sprogs. She couldn’t…
Q Are you still with Debbie?
A No. We split up a couple of years ago. My fault. I got too friendly with the girl who looked after the kids’ ponies. So now I’m a single dad and Sharon’s come back from Canada to help me out. She was never a mother to me, but she’s turning out to be a good grandmother to my kids. So it’s sort of come full circle.
Free spirit Pandora, who has now become a sound healer, is shaken by the sudden death of her mother and puzzled by the appearance of a young stranger at the funeral. When her mother’s grave is disturbed, she turns detective and finds herself drawn into a world of intrigue, centring round a devious couple’s plot to exploit a healing circle for their own ends. Her partner Jay’s collaboration with an attractive singer and her own encounter with an old flame add to the confusion. The twists and turns of her life begin to resemble the beautiful labyrinth in her garden, but will they lead to happiness or heartache?
‘Squaring Circles’ is a rich and delicious slice of modern British life, topped off with an intriguing dollop of paranormal whipped cream. This is a sequel to ‘Transforming Pandora’, and, like the first instalment, this is a novel of many characters and almost non-stop conversation, delightfully narrated by the protagonist, Pandora, now dabbling in sound healing. Most interestingly, she has a supernatural friend, Enoch, with whom she occasionally communicates via automatic writing. Pandora’s beautifully complicated modern family is depicted with such realism that the plethora of characters comes fully to life, and we feel happily included in the family. ~Ram Das Batchelder