Many regular readers of Linda’s Book Bag know I have delusions about becoming a writer of fiction. And I am writing! But I only have one protagonist to deal with. When I heard that Ewa Dodd had three in her novel The Walls Came Down, I had to ask her onto the blog to tell me more.
The Walls Came Down
The Walls Came Down tells the story of a young boy who goes missing during a workers’ strike in 1980s Communist Poland, unravelling a chain of events which will touch people across decades and continents.
Joanna, a young journalist in Warsaw, is still looking for her brother, who’s been missing for over twenty years.
Matty, a high-flying London city financier is struggling with relationship problems and unexplained panic attacks.
And in Chicago, an old man is slowly dying in a nursing home, losing his battle with liver cancer.
What connects them? As the mystery begins to unravel, the world of the three protagonists is turned upside down…
A novel of three sides
A Guest Post by Ewa Dodd
We meet Joanna for the first time in 1988 in Warsaw, when she is four years old. She discovers that her twin brother Adam has gone missing in the crowds during a protest that they have both attended with their mother. At first, she firmly believes that he will come home, but days, weeks and months pass and there is no news of him.
Whilst her mother slowly falls apart, Joanna is doubly-determined to continue searching for Adam, no matter what. She works closely with the police, helping them to identify new leads, and when the case is closed, she finds her own solution to ensuring that her brother’s story continues to be publicised in the media.
Joanna shares many of the traits of determined and successful young women that I know, but she has additional, almost super-human resolve to continue pursuing what she believes, whilst everything implies that she should give up.
Matty is a young city slicker, set on a route to becoming a successful investment banker with a six figure salary and a mansion in one of the posher suburbs of London. On the surface he has everything, and is envied by most of his friends. But there’s something that gnaws away at his subconscious, never allowing him to fully relax into his success.
An unusual news story about a plane crash in Russia spirals off a chain of events, which leads Matty to question who he is and where he has come from. He questions his adoptive mother about his real family, but gets very little information, so he decides to conduct some research of his own.
Matty was a complex character to create, as he is so multi-dimensional. Superficially, he is cocky, confident and not always likeable. But on another level, he is burdened with a deep anxiety about having lost his true identity. When writing his sections, I based his narrative on the experiences of people who have lost their memory and the heart-wrenching emotions associated with slowly regaining these.
We first meet Tom when he gets a diagnosis of liver cancer by his doctor, having noticed some worrying symptoms, including huge weight loss. Tom has recently retired from forty years of hard labour, and the unfairness of the situation hits him with full force. Lacking any immediate family to look after him, he goes to nursing home, to live out the last months of his life amongst other people suffering from terminal illnesses.
Whilst at the home, Tom befriends a fellow patient, Dustin, and one of the nurses, Clara, in whom he eventually confides. He tells them that he had a family whom he abandoned when he was a young father, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle that binds the three protagonists, fall into place.
I found Tom’s character very difficult to bring to life, as I’d never previously written from the point of view of somebody both male and of a very different age to my own. What was most challenging was convincingly conveying the pain, fear and devastation that come with the diagnosis of a terminal illness, and here, I am deeply indebted to a number of brilliant and talented people who were brave enough to write about their experiences of exactly this, including the wonderful Kate Gross.
About Ewa Dodd
The daughter of a bookseller, Ewa Dodd has been writing since she was young – starting small with short self-illustrated books for children. More recently, she has delved into novel-writing, and is particularly interested in literature based in Poland, where her family is from. The Walls Came Down is her first published novel, for which she was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction.
You can follow Ewa on Twitter @EwaDodd.