Though I’m still starting my career as a writer and editor, I’ve had opportunities to edit and read some really fantastic work in the past couple of years for literary magazines and journals. While I’m used to reading short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction pieces, none of them have entirely prepared me for the incredible honour and joy that is editing a project as grand as this one. As I studied English literature in my graduate studies, I’m quite familiar with works from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, as well as the Romantic and Victorian periods, though until I started reading this project, I had never come across a contemporary historically-based novel that takes on the form of weekly chapters posted to the public. What’s more, I’ve never come across a novel that allows itself to delve beyond the restrictions that were in place at the time, especially in terms of explicit content in literature, as the chapters reveal was very much punishable by law. And while sexualised material ought to have been accessible to its audiences in the Victorian era, it’s more important now than ever before to have female voices normalising sexual content, particularly with female-driven encounters. This, along with the deep connections the characters have throughout the generations, is really where this novel separates itself from any other Victorian-based novel.
Of course, having a background in Victorian poetry has lent itself beautifully to Rosemary’s work, as her sentence-level work is lyrical and rich with imagery, and her content is both relevant to concerns of its time, while also bringing forth concerns in literature we still face today. Particularly, this novel, with its explicit scenery and description, draws attention to how we regard female sexuality and its depictions in not only literature but really, any content we consume today. We’ve seen female sexuality done before in mainstream media, notably in novels by E. L. James, but often, especially with regards to female dominance and female desire, pieces with these contexts tend to be overlooked or dismissed in terms of its level of merit. I think because of how readily flippant audiences are with depictions of female-initiated sex, the real heart of the story is in Justine’s character thread.
Because of the weight Justine’s thread has on the story in its entirety, this is where I am focusing my attention when it comes to paring down the story. Justine is both the mother of the story in that she gave birth to Sidney–who himself is a major moving point in both Gregory and George’s threads–but further, in that she is where the sexual tension that gives rise to the losses and traumas that root themselves on Harlow Street, and carry on through the generations. Justine’s is definitely a voice this story needs in order for the family’s stories to get all the way back to Phil and the police department. So, from the material online and all the extra materials Rosemary has offered me behind the scenes, I’ll be working on focusing the novel’s narrative around Justine’s sexuality, her emotions, her trauma, the weight all that is inflicted upon her, and all she inflicts on others within her own storyline, which reverberates throughout generations to come.
For now, I hope you’re all enjoying all of the interdisciplinary aspects Rosemary is incorporating into this novel as much as I am.