| LONDON, July 10
LONDON, July 10 "Apple Tree Yard" is a
fast-paced psychological thriller that explores a disturbing
idea: what if a woman who has been indulging in risky sex finds
herself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong man?
Add to this the fact that the woman is a 50-something mother
and you begin to understand the torsion that author Louise
Doughty applies, forcing us to question our value judgments and
moral perspective while gripped by the unfolding drama.
Commercial and highly readable, "Apple Tree Yard" poses the
question of a woman's integrity in a courtroom setting.
"It's the idea that if you tell a small lie, that can
completely undermine your reliability when it comes to telling a
larger truth," Doughty says. "That is the emotional heart of the
book - to what extent does society judge a woman like Yvonne and
therefore she can't get justice."
It all stems from a brief encounter that Yvonne Carmichael,
who is a geneticist, has in Britain's House of Commons when she
is called to testify before a committee there. She is later
called as an accessory to a murder in a court trial where
everything may be revealed - putting her and her family at risk.
"Apple Tree Yard" is being adapted for screen. Doughty,
author of seven novels, radio broadcaster and Booker Prize
judge, talks to Reuters.
Q: Is this the first psychological thriller you've written?
A: I didn't set out to. I just like taking people who are
like us, and throwing a grenade at them, and seeing what
happens. With Yvonne, it is partly self-inflicted because she
has an affair and that makes her life unravel. I want the reader
to address how they would behave. What if...
Q: What sparked the idea?
A: I had a very strong image of a woman in the witness stand
in the Old Bailey (courts). I didn't know what she had been
charged with, who she was, or why she was there, but I did know
that she was about to be caught out in a very damaging lie.
Q: The risky sex seems almost to be a misdirection for the
A: Yes. We are concerned about Yvonne's consensual
adventure, when actually, statistically, the vast majority of
sexual assaults come from work colleagues, family members,
people we think are friends. Not a stranger in an alleyway.
Q: What was your intention as a writer?
A: I am interested in how women's morality is judged through
the prism of their sexual morality. If a woman steps out of
line, particularly in terms of sexual misbehaviour, it is easier
to discredit her using that information.
Q: What was your purpose in choosing a 50-something woman?
A: There appears to be this massive lacuna in fiction. Where
are the heroines in their 40s, 50s, 60s? It's odd that fiction
hasn't caught up with popular culture, where there has been more
acceptance of older women as attractive and sexy, whether its
"Desperate Housewives", Madonna or Emma Thompson.
Q: Do you see commercial fiction as a good way to introduce
difficult subject matter?
A: Absolutely. I think it's essential really. I don't think
there's anything about writing a narrative-driven book that
means you can't also tackle serious subjects.
Q: It's been called a brave book. Why?
A: It's funny because people say that kind of thing about
"Apple Tree Yard," but they didn't say it about "Fires in the
Dark", a large chunk of which is set in a concentration camp,
they didn't say it about "Stone Cradle", which is a gritty tale
Q: Well, you've raised the gorgon of 50-year-old women and
A: Yes. And suddenly everyone is telling me how brave I am.
There is a way that women get described as brave in a way that I
don't think men do. Does anyone say to Ian McEwan, "It's very
dark"? There's still an assumption that it's hard for us tender,
sensitive females to go there.
Q: This is your seventh novel - how have you progressed as a
A: I think my technical skill has increased immeasurably,
particularly in terms of plotting. I take it as a huge
compliment when people tell me that "Apple Tree Yard" is well-
structured. It's an underrated skill, the ability to have an
even pace, to have revelations without being cheap. I do love
the freedom in novel writing. As long as you know how to ride
the horse, you're on a really good horse.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Larry King)