What is Counting the Ways?
Grace Barnes, living in her subterranean one-room flat at the nether end of Earl’s Court, feels out of tune with striving, self-seeking 1980’s London. Meeting Archie Copeland, she is gratified to have found a man who shares her obsession for reading and seems more fascinated by Shelley than shifting share prices.
In Oxford, Hester, Grace’s mother, considers her estranged marriage to Fergus, who left her thirty years before to go and live on a remote Welsh hillside in pursuit of self-sufficiency. His subsequent appearance at Grace and Archie’s quiet wedding is a surprise and she finds it hard to quantify her feelings about him.
Soon, Grace is troubled by a distance in Archie, and a tendency to covert actions even though his faithfulness appears absolute. Moving to the countryside seems to offer relief, but the recession of the late 1980s impacts upon them both professionally and Grace is aware of a growing inadequacy in communication between the two of them as they struggle to talk openly. A spontaneous holiday on the Mediterranean island of Kronos provides a respite for them both and they begin to consider a permanent move away, but then Archie suddenly disappears. In the wake of this, Grace uncovers a trail of debts and increasing evidence of his duplicity. Remaining on Kronos, finding a job and friendship, Grace determines to find Archie. Hester is anxious to help, while Fergus is unexpectedly forthright in his attempts to assist. Archie, meanwhile, is forced to confront years of self-delusion.
In the shadow of Archie’s absence, Grace, Fergus and Hester find themselves facing the truth of their fractured relationships and considering how, so often, it has been the unspoken words rather than those uttered that have contributed towards conflict and separation. Counting the Ways explores the fears that shadow our lives – failure, loss, regret and mortality – and will appeal to fans of contemporary fiction. It also makes an ideal book group read.
“A thought-provoking novel”
“Wonderful insights into family and relationships”
“This book made me think; it made me feel”
“A rich and entertaining read”
“The characters are well-drawn and completely believable”
“This book kept me guessing right to the end”
“I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction and it would be a good reading group choice.”
Mojomums: “Jude Hayland – a very good storyteller. This is a wonderful story of true love. I enjoyed this book very much – the characters and locations are so well described you wish you could be there with them.”
NetGalley: Average 5* from all reviewers
My new novel, Counting the Ways, is set partly on the fictitious eastern Mediterranean island of Kronos. Although Kronos is a figment of my imagination, its creation is very much based on my personal experience of life on the Greek island of Crete. I have been visiting Crete for over twenty five years and six years ago, I managed to achieve a long-held dream of buying a house, in conjunction with my extended family, in the North West region of the island called the Apokoronas, in a village just a handful of kilometres from the sea.
Of course my invented island of Kronos is very different from Crete – it has no airport, for a start, as I liked the added drama of people having to arrive by ferry and the greater sense of isolation this suggests. Creating a fictional island with fictional names also has the advantage of giving me free rein to describe and invent without the concern for authenticity or factual accuracy.
But my experience of the Cretan climate, the extraordinary beauty of the mountains, the coast line, the breath-taking sunsets and, above all, the profound kindness and friendliness of the Cretan people, is certainly reflected in the way I describe life on Kronos in the novel.
London, Oxford, the West Country and Wales are also settings that feature in the novel and are similarly places that I know well, either from living there for extended periods of my life (London and Oxford) or from regular visits.
Book Group Discussion Points
1. Setting the novel in the 1980s was a deliberate choice to avoid the era of mobile phones and internet technology. How different would the story be set in our contemporary 21st world where it is hard to be lost and out of touch for long?
2. Archie empties the house at Jacob’s Bottom, losing Grace’s possessions. What would you most miss or most want to save if the contents of your house were randomly lost or dispersed?
3. Is Fergus a true idealist or merely irresponsible? Do the reader’s feelings towards him shift over the course of the novel?
4. Grace says that she finds it easier to love people who have failed rather than those who are enormously successful. Is this an unusual or a common feature of a woman’s love?
5. Is Hester too compliant when Fergus first leaves? Is this out of pride? What sort of marriage would they have had if she had insisted on his return and he had reluctantly agreed?
6. Is there a chance of a future of any kind for Hester and Fergus?
7. Grace says, Perhaps we become the people we need to become. Is this true?
8. The settings of the novel offer different kinds of life styles – London, Oxford, rural Wales, Jacob’s Bottom, the island of Kronos. Where would you prefer to live?
9. The novel is about love – it is also about loss and how we respond to loss in our lives. Leo, Archie, Hester, Fergus, Grace – what do their reactions to loss suggest about their characters?
10. It is 2017: what has happened to them all?
Counting the Ways is available April 2017 and can be ordered from my publisher Matador…