Published in the Sunday Times
Writing this book was painful, but enlightening; a journey of self-discovery. When my mother died I had an emotional breakdown, and then I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. I realised the fragility of life and I decided to write. My inspiration has been largely my own despair, a desire to explore family dynamics and understand myself and my parents and siblings on a deeper level. To heal.
Despite this, All Things Bright and Broken is not a sad book. Seen through the eyes of a child, there is lots of unintentional humour. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes also inspired me. His childhood in the slums of Ireland was different, but there were parallels. I had to face my buried monsters and the dissociation and false self built to cope with the harshness of childhood. It has taken courage to visit those dark places in my mind.
I knew this would be the ultimate journey of self-discovery and so I delved deeper into psychology. I devoured every self-help book I could find. I hope the book resonates with readers, even if it is only discovering gratitude at not having spent a childhood crippled by adverse circumstances.
My first attempts were prosaic and boring. One morning when reviewing the previous day’s longhand scribbling, I read: He sat on the windowsill, framed by the Dorothy Perkins roses … That was the turning point. It may sound ordinary, but to me it was like discovering colour when I had previously only used black and white. Something changed in me. I started writing with a different eye. Everything came alive and flowed with a new rhythm. No one was more surprised than I was. I wondered where this had come from and then I remembered my father’s fascination with language, both English and Afrikaans. He carried a notebook with him at all times, filled with phrases from newspapers and magazines.
But technically I was still in the dark ages. Changing from longhand to computer was a huge challenge. It has taken 20 years to see this book grow from baby steps to the final published product. Some days I ended up in floods of tears – I battled with revealing family secrets and sharing my innermost feelings with the world.
But laughter saved me, and one incident comes to mind. My first version of the story was titled White Boots and Tuppenny Cakes. Having lunch in Kalk Bay, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman at the next table. He enquired about my writing and we swopped e-mail addresses. I received an e-mail enthusiastically enquiring about White Boobs and Tupperry Cakes. It kept me amused for weeks.
- All Things Bright and Broken by Carol Gibbs
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