‘Let me be me! Perhaps that’s the heart-cry of the novel.’ Joanna Glen introduces The Other Half of Augusta Hope.
I started writing The Other Half of Augusta Hope with the meaning of home buzzing in my mind. Neither Augusta nor Parfait can live within, or breathe inside, what’s supposed to be their home. And that’s the way it is for some children – I know that as a teacher. Why are some kids happy to live the life their parents lived? And why do others have to fly away? It happens in life, it happens in the novel and it’s painful for everyone.
I wanted to write about twins because twins show us that though you’re the same, you’re not.
You’re yourself! Even as a child, I hated to be told that because I was a girl, x. Or because I was fourteen, y. Let me be me! Perhaps that’s the heart-cry of the novel.
In the same way, I’ve never thought that the person who’s had a different experience of life, or is of a different age, gender or ethnicity from me will, inevitably, be unlike me. One of the great joys of being human, it seems to me, is finding how big our common ground is. Augusta and Parfait speak from their jarringly different worlds – and I hope the reader sees sameness more than difference as their lives, hopes and dreams begin to echo each other’s, and then to meld.
Sometimes we need to leave home to find home – and Augusta and Parfait are on a homeward journey somewhere else.
Perhaps we’ve experienced that too, the joy of finding the person/job/country that’s the right shape for us. When I step out of the plane at Seville Airport, why does it always smell so good? Home, it turns out, isn’t necessarily the place we’re born.
Both characters experience tragedy, and both wonder if they could have prevented it.
But life is lived once, forwards, imperfectly, without rehearsal – we’re on stage straight away. We can only examine it backwards. And by then it’s too late. And this, it seems to me, is the terrible truth at the heart of the novel, and, as I see it, at the heart of life. That we can’t rewind.
If we look life in the eye, we will see, simultaneously, pain and beauty. We’ll weep and we’ll laugh, sometimes at the same time. If we love, we’ll grieve. If we live, we’ll die.
I know this, yet my love of life, and my sense of the wonder within it, is not diminished.
Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.
And she’s right – she doesn’t. At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.
And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.
When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?
The Other Half of Augusta Hope is available now in trade paperback.