Back in the 2014, as a student I undertook a module entitled ‘The writer as researcher’ which was designed to give us the tools with which to research for an extended writing project of 8-10,000 words. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may well be aware that my chosen research area was the Korean War. However, before our final decision was made, we were encouraged to research something about which we had no previous knowledge and write an outline and short relevant piece about it. Although this particular piece of work would not be marked, the purpose of researching a subject from scratch was to provide us with a good grounding in research methods. Being a model student and determined to achieve a good degree, I completed every such piece of unmarked work as diligently as if it had been set as a formal assignment.
I’d very recently watched, and loved, the marvellous film Philomena (the title character so poignantly played by Dame Judi Dench) which tells the true story of a woman’s fifty year search for her son who was forcibly adopted. Without wishing to give anything away in case you haven’t seen it (a massive recommendation here – it’s very, very good if you don’t mind shedding a tear or two), one of the closing scenes features a harp. Although in this case it was it ornamental rather than real, the harp became the inspiration for my research.
In brief, the piece I wrote was about a woman who lives in the Devon and has a list of things she’d like to achieve by her fortieth birthday. The notion of a owning or playing a harp does not appear anywhere on that list, but a twist of fate finds her longing to do so and taking lessons much against the wishes of her husband. I still have the piece I wrote on my PC and according to the digitally produced date on the Word Document, the file was created in October 2014 and, until today, last viewed in October 2016. As I said, this piece of writing was not submitted for marking. Neither has it ever been shown to anyone.
Fast forward to earlier this week when an Amazon recommendation popped up on Facebook for a book called Ellie and the Harp Maker. I liked the sound of the blurb and downloaded a sample. I liked the sample too so downloaded the whole book which I finished reading in bed this morning. It was truly excellent…..but did make the odd chill run down my spine. You see, Ellie is a woman who lives on Exmoor (which, for those who are not from England, is a national park area situated in the South West running across parts of Somerset and Devon). She has a list of things she’d like to do before she’s forty. Playing a harp is not one of them until a chance encounter has her longing to do so. Her husband is not happy about it.
Anyhow, the writer Hazel Prior (who plays the harp so I guess it’s not so unusual that she might write about something she knows) is to be congratulated, not only on a great idea for a story, but on her wonderful talent for describing the beautiful Exmoor countryside. Some stunning writing and a cracking good read. However, one criticism of whoever decided that it was a good idea to suggest on the front cover that this is a book ideal for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine To this I say….NO, NO, NO! Eleanor Oliphant is not at all a believable character. Ellie and the harp maker is a million miles away.