Today on Inheritance Books, we’ve got Jeannie Von Rompaey. Hi Jeannie, welcome to Inheritance Books. Please, make yourself comfy on the sofa. I’ll put the kettle on. While I’m doing that, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m passionate about reading, writing, art and the theatre. I was born in London, brought up in a village in Northamptonshire and now live on the subtropical island of Gran Canaria with my husband, TJ, a historian. I love living in a warm climate with blue skies above and a light breeze; but enjoy visits to London and other cities to see my daughter, go to the theatre and visit art exhibitions.
I have an MA in Modern Literature from The University of Leicester and have had a varied career as lecturer, theatre director and actor. As Jeannie Russell I’m a member of the Guild of Drama Adjudicators and adjudicate at drama festivals in Britain and Europe. Next year I’m off to Frankfurt to adjudicate there.
I write novels, short stories, poems and plays on subjects I feel strongly about, including: the complexity of human nature and the future of our planet.
Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?
Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A Mackenzie was given to me by a friend of my mother’s who had travelled in India. I was fascinated by his stories about a continent I knew little about.
From the first I loved the cover of the book, its intricate patterned design that promised entrance to a different world. I also loved the gold leaf that edged the pages, now unfortunately faded.
The inside did not disappoint either with its tales of Indian traditions and myths. The black and white photographs of Indian temples, sculptures and ceremonies are combined with coloured prints from paintings of deities and nymphs. I’ve found the names of the divinities and the myths surrounding them useful when inventing names and characters for my dystopian novels in the Oasis series. For example the wives of Shiva: Durga, the Destroyer and war goddess; Kali, the black earth-mother with her built in serpents; Jagadgauri, the yellow harvest bride and Sati, the ideal of a true and virtuous woman. The latter is satirised in my novel, as she is promiscuous. A touch of irony, that I love.
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s dystopian fiction, set in a terrifying but fascinating future. Reading this book marks the beginning of my interest in this genre.
I love the cover of this paperback because of its vibrant primary colours. Every woman in Gilead is defined by the way she is dressed and colour-coded. The women on the cover are handmaids because they dressed in red, the colour of blood. Their only function is to breed. The Marthas, who cook and do household chores, are in dull green robes with bib aprons over them. The gowns of both handmaids and Marthas are long and concealing. These examples of the dress code give an insight into how detailed and cleverly constructed this novel is. I admire the way Atwood has created such a complete, imaginary world. The men of Gilead imagined they were creating a utopia, but even they become disillusioned and victims of the rigid system. Reading this book made me realize that utopias are impossible to create. Human beings are flawed and so when trying to form a perfect society are bound to fail.
I’d like to leave this book to my daughter because it not only acts as a warning to future generations but also celebrates the resilience of women in a male orientated world.
Fabulous choices. Thank you for letting us peek into your bookcase. Your novel sounds like fun (I’m a sucker for folklore absorbed into modern fiction). I hope it does really well.