Dorothy Forrest is immersed in the sensory world around her; she lives in the flickering moment. From the age of seven, when her odd, disenfranchised family moves from New York City to the wide skies of Auckland, to the very end of her life, this is her great gift and possible misfortune.
Through the wilderness of a commune, to falling in love, to early marriage and motherhood, from the glorious anguish of parenting to the loss of everything worked for and the unexpected return of love, Dorothy is swept along by time. Her family looms and recedes; revelations come to light; death changes everything, but somehow life remains as potent as it ever was, and the joy in just being won't let her go.
In a narrative that shifts and moves, growing as wild as the characters, The Forrests is an extraordinary literary achievement. A novel that sings with colour and memory, it speaks of family and time, dysfunction, ageing and loneliness, about heat, youth, and how life can change if 'you're lucky enough to be around for it'. Emily Perkins
was born in 1970. She is the author of Not Her Real Name, a collection of short stories which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the John Lewellyn Rhys Prize, and the novels Leave Before You Go and The New Girl. She lives in New Zealand. Novel About My Wife, published by Bloomsbury in May 2008 and in paperback in April 2009, is a taut, sensuous and chilling portrait of a marriage beset by paranoia and obsession. The Forrests
Author: Emily Perkins
Interview with Emily PerkinsQuestion:
Can you talk about the process involved in writing The Forrests?Emily Perkins
: Well it was a strange process coming in to write this book and very unusual for me because I'd actually enrolled in a Masters of Creative Writing at Auckland University, where I'd been teaching the Masters in Creative Writing; but I didn't have the MCW so I thought that I should enrol in it and have that experience. I just started writing this book as part of that, and it was actually quite a liberating thing to do because I didn't have any expectations of what it might become, but then when I was working on it I thought "oh and then this could happen like this" and went through all those processes you go through when you're making something creative and the different aspects of it start to come together and you see how they could make something different. That was the first draft and then I spent another year and a half redrafting it. Question:
How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?Emily Perkins
: There's quite a lot of, not my life in the autobiographical sense, but my awareness of the environment and the physical world around me. I've been trying to bring that real sense of intensity into the book. I think it's quite a mid-life book, I turned 40 while I was writing it and I was thinking a lot about what it means to be in the middle of your life as a woman, to have those decades behind you that have got you to where you are now, but they can also seem like they happened to somebody else sometimes. You can be standing there at 40 and looking back at being 20 and in some way it just seems like seconds ago and in other ways you can't really believe you're the same person. Question:
What was the best thing about creating the character of Dorothy Forrest?Emily Perkins
: The most enjoyable thing about writing Dorothy is giving her this intense awareness of the sensory world. It is a book that's a lot about sensation and what it's physically like to be alive and the real bliss and joy that can come out of everyday situations just by paying close attention to them. Also, when Dorothy gets older when she's in her midlife and beyond, she kind of loosens up a lot and starts to accept the weirdness of life and that was really fun to write. Dorothy has this long relationship, mostly at a distance with the family friend in the book called Daniel, and the kind of longing that is involved, having strong feelings for somebody that's not actually physically in your life, was actually quite fun to write as well. And then writing the sexual tension when they were together! Question:
What did you enjoy most about writing a Auckland setting?Emily Perkins
: I'd moved back to Auckland after living in London for almost a decade. I think I was hyper aware of just how gorgeous the environment is in Auckland. I'd gone form quite a grotty part of London to a leafy suburb in Auckland, and I'd walk along feeling quite elated, almost high really! But it's funny, because I'm in Sydney right now, and I was walking around the Wharf this morning and, thought this is even more so! If I felt elated by Auckland, this is like that on steroids; it's just wonderful, gorgeous. Question:
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?Emily Perkins
: Read! Read as widely as you can, and find like-minded people that you can share your writing with and talk to about reading and writing.
Interview by Brooke Hunter and Fiona TewBuy it now at