THE WRONG MAN
THE WRONG MAN
‘The Wrong Man’ is a revised version of a novel called ‘Walls of Glass’, which I wrote thirty years ago. It tells the story of a mother of two small children who dares to own up to the unhappiness of what everyone around her assumes is a blissful married life. No one greets her revelations well, least of all her husband…
It is a strange business meeting your younger writing self. It catapults you back, not just to the task of writing that particular book, but also to where you were – physically and mentally – at the time. ‘Walls of Glass’ was my third novel. I was a happily married thirty-two-year-old with two little boys, settling back into London after a decade of living abroad. Life was good. I found it an enjoyable challenge to create Jane Lytton, a woman at a similar life-stage to me, but in a contrastingly panic-stricken state of realisation that she has taken the most terrible wrong road.
Destinies turn on pin-heads. The paths we choose are so often ‘Plan B’. There are things waiting for us round corners. Good things, bad things. This is one of the reasons I am drawn to storytelling. Jane Lytton had lost her way, but I could help her find it again.
Back out in the real world, of course, resolving the ‘plot-twists’ of our own lives can be somewhat trickier; a fact reinforced for me when my own marriage imploded eighteen years on from having conjured up the experience for Jane. Re-reading the novel three decades later has therefore been unnerving. Jane Lytton’s circumstances were entirely different from mine, but all the big emotions rang true. To have got so much right! Without a crystal ball! Yikes. Talk about the mysteries of creativity…
Or maybe there are no mysteries. Maybe the answer is simply that the dilemmas I threw across Jane Lytton’s path are ones that we all face in different guises as our lives unfold; dilemmas to do with love, sacrifice, loyalty, loss, love, to name but a few. Relationships lie at the core of our well-being. Each one of us is feeling his or her way along, on a perpetual quest to find joy and equilibrium. And as with my fictional heroine, we are blind not just to the pitfalls, but also to the happy endings – or beginnings! – that might lie in store.
In many ways Jane Lytton was ahead of her time – finding the courage to speak out in a world which still expected a woman to stay silent and put her own happiness last. I have not changed the story of ‘Walls of Glass’; but revisiting it has been a wonderful opportunity to craft it into the best version of itself that it could be, including giving it a new, punchier title. The single life suits many; but the question of whether – how! – to find ‘Mr/Ms Right’ hovers remorselessly. Invariably, it as much about luck as good judgement. The only certainty is that there are no easy answers, or crystal balls.
Amanda Brookfield May 2023