Monday, May 29, 2017

Diane Noble @dianeanoble1 Author of Oppression #Adventure #Egypt #Kidnapping

Welcome Dianne A. Noble. Instead of our usual interview, Dianne talks about her books…


The first time I saw Egypt I was seven years old and sitting on the deck of the troopship Dunera with my head buried in Enid Blyton’s Ring-o-Bells Mystery. I looked up when we docked in Port Said to see the gully-gully man. He was an Egyptian magician who fascinated everyone, young and old alike, and accentuated the other world atmosphere of this exotic country. As we sailed down the Suez Canal—much narrower than expected—Lawrence of Arabia figures seated on camels appeared on the desert banks. I can truly say Egypt was the first place interesting enough to get my head out of a book.

Three years later, in December 1957, the Canal had been closed, and we flew back from Singapore in an RAF Hermes plane. The journey took almost three days, stopping in several countries to re-fuel and de-ice the wings. This time there were no hot and vibrant sights and I didn’t see Egypt again until I reached my early forties, when I travelled by train from Cairo to Aswan, glued to the windows as we passed by villages which looked like they’d come straight from the pages of the Bible. My lifelong love affair with Egypt had begun, and I’ve been back many times. The last time, I visited the City of the Dead in Cairo, a necropolis which features in Oppression and houses many poor people.

This novel is the story of Beth who prevents the abduction of a young girl in a North Yorkshire town, but is powerless to stop her subsequent forced marriage. In time to come Beth travels to Egypt to search for the girl, Layla, and finds her living in the City of the Dead. Oppression is the tale of two very different women, both of whom are oppressed in their lives, and how they triumph despite the odds.

Outcast and A Hundred Hands

Ten years ago I volunteered to spend a winter teaching English to street children in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, in India. While there I realised what it is I love about the country—it’s the people. Despite great deprivation they laugh and are joyful. This time in Kolkata proved to be the hardest thing I have ever done. Broken, crumbling buildings sit amid lakes of raw sewage; filthy children encrusted with sores are homeless; families live on a patch of pavement so narrow they take it in turns to lie down. They give birth—and die—there. Yet their indomitable spirit shines through.

I feared I couldn’t do it, felt my resolve dying daily amid the horrors and hardship, but I started writing a journal and it saved me. Every night, no matter how dirty and exhausted I felt, I recorded one child’s progress with the alphabet, another’s disappearance, how many times I’d been hugged. It was a form of de-briefing but also cathartic. It got me through and these diaries formed the basis for A Hundred Hands and Outcast.

India remains my favourite place in the world, and I re-visit whenever I can afford it. I have often thought about living there and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel rekindled that desire!


The Plot:

When she tries preventing the abduction and forced marriage of 16-year-old Layla, Beth defies her controlling husband, Duncan, and travels to Cairo where she finds the girl now lives in the vast necropolis known as The City of the Dead. She’s hiding from her abusive husband, and incites fellow Muslim women to rebel against the oppression under which they live. Beth identifies with this and helps her.

Cairo is in a state of political unrest, and Beth gets caught up in one of the many protests. She’s rescued by Harry, who splits his working life between Egypt and England, and they fall in love. When Harry returns home and Layla vanishes, someone stalks Beth, and threatens her with violence. And then Duncan turns up...


She woke in a fretful tangle of sheets, head thumping, hair plastered to her head, wet night shirt moulded to her body. Where am I? Her gaze moved from the window to the puddle of discarded clothing and she remembered. Of course. Egypt. Leaning over the side of the bed to retrieve her slippers, she held them at arm’s length and shook them, then pulled them on and got out of bed.

Sitting on the toilet with her feet in the air, she kept a watchful eye on the floor tiles but there were no more insects to be seen.

The shower worked first time. Maybe they turned the supply off at night because of water shortages. She let it run over her, washing away the stale perspiration and dirt, rubbed shampoo into her hair, rinsed it out and stood longer. How wonderful to be clean again. With a sigh of pleasure she eventually turned off the water and looked round for the towels. There were none. She sighed. Looked like nothing was going to be simple. She dripped her way into the bedroom and dried herself on a couple of T-shirts.

By the time she’d dressed, sweat again bubbled out of every pore. Looked like she’d have to learn to live with the noisy A/C as well as permanent electric light. Her clothes smelt of mothballs after a night in the wardrobe. Pity they didn’t work for cockroaches. She looked in the small mirror over the basin and ran a comb through her hair. The lump on her temple had receded leaving a swirl of purple and yellow.

Right, almost ready for breakfast. Her stomach rumbled in agreement as she walked to the window. The shutters were stiff, the catch rusty, reluctant. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be opened, but kept closed against the sun. With a small explosion of dust and rust flakes, she pushed them free and felt heat on her face, smelt donkey dung as she looked down on the heads of a hundred people milling round, women in headscarves, men bareheaded, black hair gleaming in the sun.

She craned her neck to see small wooden shop fronts looking like cabinets with shelves. The noise was ferocious: people shouting, donkeys braying, a motorbike backfiring. Across the alley, on the roof of a narrow ochre-coloured building a woman pegged out washing, her small child playing perilously close to the unguarded edge. Beth’s arms prickled with heat as she watched, until a triumphant bluebottle shot through a hole in the insect mesh and she quickly pulled the shutters closed, remembering just how many flies there were in Egypt. She’d have to buy a swat today.

Fastening on her wristwatch, she checked the time. Ten to nine. She hoped that she wouldn’t be too late for breakfast. It was going on for seven o’clock at home and she was glad not to be there. Instead she was happy to be starting out on her first day in Cairo.

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Twitter: @dianneanoble1

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