Vandalism is a novel I began writing many years ago but it continued to follow me around through different countries and various stages in my life. The book is set in my home city, Glasgow, and tells the story of Moira, a young woman whose best friend, Connie, is dying of breast cancer when Ewan, a man from her past, reappears in her life. Although Moira is in a settled relationship with Andy, she begins an affair with Ewan, one which contrasts sharply with her routine life with Andy and, much more brutally, with the rapid deterioration in Connie’s health.
In 2013, I returned to this novel and, in the intense heat of a Maltese summer, I returned to the grey and rain of Glasgow which was the setting for my book. At the beginning of 2014, I submitted a couple of chapters to the main publisher in Malta, Merlin Publishers, Malta having then been my home for 6 years. To my surprise, given the novel’s set in Scotland, the publisher asked to see more of the work, quickly requesting the complete manuscript and, in April of that year, Merlin wrote to say they wanted to publish the book. To say I was delighted is an understatement.
It appeared in the bookshops in Malta in October 2015. Since then I’ve had the privilege of receiving a lot of feedback from readers and just as I was taken aback by the fact a Maltese publisher was so keen to publish the novel, so, too, I’m deeply touched to find such a range of readers responding to the book: young and old, men and women, people of different nationalities and from different cultural backgrounds. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for more.
To include some examples:
‘WOW! What an amazing read! Started it yesterday morning and haven’t been able to put it down. It’s so intense! You very cleverly put into words so many emotions and thoughts which us lesser verbally-challenged mortals find so hard to describe.’ [Catherine Vassallo]
‘A truly touching, thoughtful wee gem and resonant contemplation on relationships and love.’ [Andrew Galea]
‘I just finished the book. I’m crying and laughing at the same time. It’s so melancholically real and you manage to capture every emotion so beautifully. I felt everything she went through, it’s beautiful, it is duende. You have it in bucketfuls.’ [Ann Sammut]
‘It is so lovely to experience a novel which celebrates the frailty of life and love without sugar-coating and sentimentality. The beauty of humanity is in the flaws, and Eldridge shares these imperfections with great skill, sensitivity and above all honesty.’ [Marie Keiser-Nielsen]
One intensely moving reaction came from a woman I was at school with. She spoke of how the book reminded her of the Glasgow she grew up in, and, more specifically, how it found her reflecting on the loss of her best friend, someone who was also a shared school friend and who tragically took her own life several years ago. This response is one that stays with me strongly, painfully and poignantly, and always will.
I think, at this early stage in the book’s wider life, I’m beginning to realise why this was a novel that never disappeared from my own mind. On the cover is a quote from the story and this seems to capture exactly what I mean:
Life, love and death. Pretty much the fundamental basis of our shared human experience and of our expression of this through writing and every other art form. Life, love and death which, in themselves, don’t always make much sense but, perhaps, acquire a little more understanding through the sharing of these experiences. Life, love and death: the focus of our ongoing questions about what it means to be human in the face of the callously inhumane. Life, love and death, which in themselves hold no answers yet, in their diverse colours, shapes and textures, constitute the fabric of our collective existence.
The writing of Vandalism came from my own responses to particular situations, resulting in a story with fictional characters and a context of their own. Other people’s responses to the book have left me feeling extremely humble and immensely grateful that this specific story resonates with the individual lives of those who read this book. Through these responses, I’m discovering a deeper understanding, one intimately connected with those whose journeys intersect with mine. Thank you.