Claire Kilroy shares a few words about her new novel, Soldier Sailor. This takes the reader “deep into the early days of motherhood.
It’s been a long time since I published my last novel. Eleven years. In 2012, soon after the publication of my last novel, The Devil I Know, I had a child. I left the silent, solitary, contemplative world of letters and was plunged into the screaming multiverse of motherhood where all of the things were happening all of the time.
When my child got bigger, I was able to drop suicide watch (because yes, they find a way to kill themselves if you turn your back) and, much as I wanted to escape back into the worlds of my previous books – the world of art, Faustian pacts, love affairs, excitement – I knew I had to write about motherhood. Raising a child is a serious business so I would write about it in a serious fashion.
Here is an embarrassing confession: my younger self – my childfree self – used to look at women pushing prams and consider it a waste of a woman’s potential. That wasn’t going to happen to me. I am both mortified to admit that I used to think that way, but also increasingly aware that I had been inculcated since childhood to believe this ideology. It had been drummed into me that working was the most important activity and that we girls could do it just as well as men. Raising a child didn’t count as work. That’s why you didn’t get paid for it. Besides, it was easy. Right?
Then one day I was the figure pushing the pram. I am here to report that, when you are that soldier, anything – anything – can be running through your mind.
I’ve swapped the paintings and concert halls of my previous novels for supermarkets, nappy changing stations, playgrounds, IKEA. I’ve swapped dialogue for a small person yelling No! over and over. I have treated the endeavour of bringing a new life into the world as no less serious a literary subject than any other, if not more serious because here, quite literally, is life and death. Here is living at your outer extreme, resenting your partner like it’s a competitive sport, loving at your more perilous register and – I’m really gonna go for it here: safeguarding humanity’s future. If from the outside it looks domestic, then we need a new definition of domestic.
You can pre-order Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy at Dubray.