The stories are inspired by my own experience as a Navy brat in the 1960s when my family spent 18 months on a naval base in Bahrain. I must hastily interject that the characters of my stories are entirely fictional! I used the setting and my memories of the chemistry of the time as a laboratory of human interplay. I have tried to get the simple, material, facts right, but the ‘truth’ of them is more basic.The stories concern human beings thrown together in an unfamiliar, restrictive, environment, enclosed within an alien culture with quite different mores.
Childhood memories are often more visceral than when we are adult – based on what is felt rather than understood. My feelings for the time are now mediated by my adult perspective, but in the process of writing it is still possible to tap into this more fundamental level and often it is freer of rational truth – often more accurate. Especially today, we seem to believe there is an absolute set of morals, and that the truth is a simple set of tickbox facts. In trying to back-fit history into our modern context, we mis-read the cues.
The 1960s was a time when Western society cut itself loose – to some extent – from the strictures of the first half of the century. Women’s lives, especially, began to unhook themselves from the long established patriarchal framework. Living in Bahrain in the restricted environment of a military base isolated us from what was happening in Britain at that time. Newspapers arrived with stale news – we had no television or telephone. The reports from the world of ‘Home’ to ordinary folk were limited to the tabloid press and things mediated via the local hierarchy and newcomer families. To live as an expatriate is like living in a fiction, but a muli-layered one, where even ‘Home’ is unreal.
This short collection is available from Amazon’s Kindle store with the title ‘This Heat’.http://www.amazon.co.uk/This-Heat-ebook/dp/B00A41URSA/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1
Of her writing, the following has been said:
Christopher Burns: Elizabeth Stott’s fiction is notable for its lucid sensory detail and clear-eyed analysis of restrictive social groupings. Vivid evocations of time and place and an assured cropping of narrative strands
Michael Hulse: Elizabeth Stott’s exacting stories recall the distinction between substance and accident. The accidents are the details of everyday life that Stott so shrewdly observes. Quietly, dangerously, Elizabeth Stott walks the edge, bringing back her subtly unnerving reports.
About this book…
This short collection is themed, with three stories of expatriate life set in the Persian Gulf in the mid-1960s.Versions of two of these stories appeared in her collection Familiar Possessions in 2002. (Familiar Possessions and The Girl Who Dived.)
- Rose is frustrated with the lack of substance to her role as wife and mother when a neighbour offers her husband’s services to do simple repair, which brings unexpected consequences.
- Catherine has ambitions but her family regard her as a dependable big sister and mother’s help. Her maturity and capabilities attract unwanted attention and humiliation.
- Archibald Tupper is 37 and single. Mrs Wetherby is married to the vigorous Captain Wetherby, but why does she tease a single man?
Kathleen Jones: ‘Elizabeth Stott is very good at showing us the uncomfortable truths that lurk beneath the tidy surfaces of people’s lives. Her characters have hidden desires, unacknowledged fears, complex vulnerabilities. These stories feature a diverse group of people, thrown together because they are all expatriates in a small, unstable, middle-eastern state. They suffer from the extreme heat, the claustrophobia of living and working in the same space, with other people who can’t be avoided. In the surreal atmosphere of expatriate life, they begin to behave differently. A bored, unsatisfied wife is disturbed by an attempted theft; an adolescent girl becomes conscious of the dangerous power of her developing sexuality; and a male teacher, living on his own, becomes obsessed with the pristine white of Mrs Wetherby’s clothes. This is a glimpse into the nineteen sixties world of fading colonial power and how women coped with the disruption of their own lives as they followed their husbands into alien environments.’
James Sorel-Cameron: ‘Elizabeth Stott’s wonderful stories are spare and intense. The enclosed expatriate world she describes has a claustrophobia that is not only to do with the heat, with lives lived on the periphery of a world of active men by whom all her characters are dangerously taken for granted. Her characters observe their worlds in sharp detail, negotiating their way through them intimately and yet at a sustained distance, from their worlds and from themselves. There is a sense that anything might happen; sometimes it does happen, sometimes not; the tension is the same. Although finely shaped and clearly concluded, these stories feel as if they are sections cut from a much larger world, much larger lives, here contained and repressed. The worlds of these stories, which are the lives explored within them, live on long after these particular stories have ended.’