A love story in the slow lane about loss and getting lost—two childhood sweethearts take a trip via pints, ponds and pitstops to find their future on a road less travelled from Stoke-on-Trent to Wales.
Apparently, we spend almost two weeks of our life completely lost. That if you add up all the times you take a wrong turn or find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, it equates to fourteen days of essentially being missing.
One Monday afternoon, around three o’clock, pond supplies salesman Selwyn Robby arrives home towing the Toogood Aquatics exhibition caravan and orders his like-wife, Imogen ‘Ginny’ Dare, to get into the car. He’s taking her on a little holiday, he says. To Wales.
So begins their road trip west, via blasts from Selwyn’s past, and a fortnight’s journey of self-discovery for them both. But it’s a fishy business towing this caravan, with its saucy mermaid curtains and fully stocked bar, and Ginny must untangle the pondweed to get to the bottom of it, even it does mean unearthing her own murky past to find out.
Myriad will publish Pondweed in July 2020.
In Pondweed, Lisa Blower takes us on a mysterious quest along the dual carriageways and B roads of the West Midlands. Her great talent is to make compelling characters of normal people, and show us all the strangeness they contain.
Edgy, raw and just a little bit dark Lisa Blower’s prose is biting and fresh. This is a book that makes you work, and it’s a joy. It is a book to lose yourself in, filled with simple yet devastating truths and razor sharp observations. And it is funny, laugh out loud funny. In that way that snatches of life and over heard conversations take on meaning and mirth. For every pool of darkness, there is a glorious patch of light. Without a doubt one of my reads of the year.
Lisa Blower is an excellent storyteller. It's a phenomenal talent, to be able to to make people care about the history of people that they don't necessarily even like that much, and Lisa manages it brilliantly.
Pondweed is superb and I was entirely drawn in. Lisa Blower has the knack of making the most mundane and unlikely worlds become full of depth and colour. The concept is high comedy but these folk become so quickly, quietly tragic and more tragic because they had so little to lose in the first place, and yet somehow managed to lose it. This is a delicate, careful novel about people we are forced to care about.
Jonathan Davidson, Writing West Midlands
Her characters are wry and complex, despite the apparent mundanity of their surroundings.
Lisa Blower's short story collection (It's Gone Dark Over Bill's Mother's) was one of my favourite books of last year so her novel Pondweed was my most anticipated book of 2020 and it does not disappoint!
A novel that dares to find the lyrical, the luminous and the hilarious in the kind of people and places that literature often overlooks. Down arterial roads and a variety of stops and diversions, Pondweed maps out an unsentimental love story via an unconventional road movie and finds humour and enlightenment in a Britain of caravans and out-of-town aquatics dealers.
Read all of Pondweed yesterday. Bloody loved it! I miss Selwyn and Ginny already.
Bookish Chat, bookstagrammer
Her stories are at times the laugh-out-loud funny of Alan Bennett and at others, the achingly sad of the great, David Constantine.
10 July 2020
I open this review with a confession…
This is the first Lisa Blower book I have read. In fact until I stumbled across Pondweed on my Twitter feed and the lovely Emma Dawson, at Myriad very kindly sent me a copy, I hadn’t hear of this author at all.
What an addition to my life and my bookshelves this discovery is! I love coming across new authors, but when you find someone whose writing is sharp, original and wholly clear sighted, writing infused with wit and empathy in perfect balance, the joy is very real.
So bookish friends let me tell you about Pondweed, released on 9th July by Myriad Editions.
This is the story of Selwyn and Ginny. They are both of retirement age and have recently found each other again after having a relationship in their youth. Although they are currently living together, there is an unease within their relationship. It seems immediately unorthodox, filled with tension and the boundaries are not clear. As a reader I was continually attempting to define their roles; old friends or lovers? Or something between the two and altogether more complex ?
The story begins with Selwyn, arriving home unexpectedly in the middle of the day, towing a caravan. It is a van that belongs to the aquatic supplies business he has recently become a partner in, investing all his retirement fund. Selwyn is agitated and demands that Ginny get in the car immediately.
Something is wrong. Ginny is confused and angry. Why are they leaving? Where are they going? All Selwyn will tell her is they need to leave now and they are going on holiday to Wales.
Against her better judgement and resentfully, Ginny gets in the car, and so begins a strange journey. Filled with many detours of both an tangible and emotional nature, this is journey across the country but also into the past. A journey that will begin to define and redefine the couple’s relationship.
It quickly becomes clear that the business has failed, Selwyn has been cheated out of his nest egg by his unscrupulous business partner. The journey seems to be punctuated by visits to various ponds, where Selwyn always seems to be meeting up with old friends, completing favours, business transactions and encountering the past. Ginny is frustrated, often angry, that Selwyn doesn’t share his plans and their route with her. The air of unease and tension between the couple grows, but there is an underlying sense that they need each other in some unexplained but instinctive way.
The plot, the journey, the relationships within this novel are all gloriously fragmented. And it is the tension that is created by this that pulls you as a reader into the slipstream and propels you forward. The story is filled with strange, half explained facts and relationships; the two mothers that Ginny grew up with, the fact her daughter, Mia, is living in New Zealand with one of Ginny’s old flames. All these references are cast out casually like nets into the prose and you are hooked, puzzled and primed to seek answers.
Ginny pushes continually for answers and clarity from Selwyn but is not prepared to reveal any level of truth about herself. Wrapped in decades of damage and repression the journey and it’s events slowly peel back layers until the secrets of both the present and the past are slowly revealed. Ginny and Selwyn slowly begin to expose , assimilate and come to terms with events. This story may be framed by days but really it spans a lifetime .
Edgy, raw and just a little bit dark Lisa Blower’s prose is biting and fresh. This is a book that makes you work, and it’s a joy. It is a book to lose yourself in, filled with simple yet devastating truths and razor sharp observations. And it is funny, laugh out loud funny. In that way that snatches of life and over heard conversations take on meaning and mirth. For every pool of darkness, there is a glorious patch of light.
Tomorrow is publication day for our July book of the month, and I am very excited to be talking about it as our first post for the Indie Book Network. I was gifted this book by Emma, the publicist for Myriad Editions, because she knows how much I've enjoyed every single Myriad book I've ever read (seriously, never read a bad one across fiction, non-fiction and many graphic novels), and I was engrossed from the first page.
Firstly can I just say how much I love the cover of Pondweed? It's simple yet entangling, with a hint of hope at the top where you can see the sun shining through the water. Excellent work from Clare Connie Shepherd, who has designed lots of Myriad's covers. If you've been reading our blog for a while you'll know that my reviews tend to be more emotional responses than what you'd technically recognise as a standard book review, so please bear with me.
One afternoon, Selwyn Robby arrives home with a caravan that isn't his and demands his 'not wife' Ginny leaves with him. Selwyn and Ginny are teen sweethearts who go their separate ways and meet about fifty years later and resume their relationship,and the book is told from there in a very backwards and forwards kind of way through memories and stories about the people that they meet as they travel across the country.
Lisa Blower is an excellent storyteller; captivating and pacy, and her writing pulls the story along despite itself. We hear everything from Ginny's point of view as she tries to figure out how she fits into Selwyn's life after most of their lives apart, and many secrets kept by both of them. Their secrets gradually come to light over the course of their frantic and mysterious trip and the conversation, or lack thereof, between them is a major feature in the development of the story.
I have to say I found Selwyn infuriating for most of the book, and if I were Ginny I would have left him! He's a very well drawn character, and his superiority and refusal to accept that he might be in the wrong about anything was entirely believable and incredibly annoying. It's completely reasonable to want to know where you're going and why, but throughout almost the entire book he seems to want Ginny to just do everything he tells her to without asking any questions at all. The novel is made up of push and pull - Ginny asks questions, Selwyn refuses to give reasonable answers, and every now and then they arrive somewhere, seemingly at random but is it really? It's a phenomenal talent, to be able to to make people care about the history of people that they don't necessarily even like that much, and Lisa Blower manages it brilliantly.
I think this is the perfect book for the kind of summer that we are currently having, full of questions and uncertainty! It's an easy read - even with my current distraction levels it only took a couple of days to finish - and I think Selwyn and Ginny will stay with me for a long time.
One Monday afternoon, pond supplies salesman Selwyn Robby arrives home towing the Toogood Aquatics exhibition caravan and orders his sort of wife, Ginny Dare, to get into the car. He’s taking her on a little holiday, he says, only later revealing it’s to Wales. The newly reacquainted childhood sweethearts take the trip from the Midlands via pubs and ponds.
Now senior lecturer in English and creative writing at Wolverhampton University, @lisablowerwrite won the Guardian National Short Story Award in 2009. Her characters are wry and complex, despite the apparent mundanity of their surroundings. Kevin Gopal finds out more in this week's issue.