‘HIs face was like old, brown leather, weather-beaten as if he had spent too much time in the sun. His skin was so lined and creased, yet at the same time, strangely shiny. He did look as if he was sleeping; creased leather eyelids shut over almost empty sockets…Death had marked his expression with his last dream; who could imagine those final images as a human life drifts suspended between reality and oblivion, all thoughts becoming fluid as the starry edges of existence fade away?’
This story has been a long time in the making. I first thought of the idea aged 11, when I actually wrote it for an English lesson with my teacher Tim Howard. I had been reading about the preserved peat bog man even earlier than that. I had hired a book from a local library – this was my Saturday treat believe it or not. I’d go and borrow at least 7 books every weekend. Most of them were Steven King books and those similar. The librarian would ask my mum if I was allowed to take such books out as I was only 7 or 8 – mum always said yes as she knew I could distinguish between a book and reality and it did not give me nightmares – real life can be much more horrific. Anyway, I took a book called The Bog People by P V Glob, on the recommendation of my nan, who was always into anything a bit weird and wonderful, and never thought I should have to stick to children’s books. Apart from the wonderfully appropriate author name, I found this fascinating, borrowing at school and even travelling to another town to get a copy. No amazon in those days. It occurred to me only a few years ago that I could now get it on Amazon, and I have indeed got a copy. It still held the same magical fascination as it did when I was a child. I loved looking at the preserved man and the last meal he ate. I imagined his life, and I imagined myself, found persevered hundreds of years later. What would he say if he could talk. It was intriguing.
The original story I wrote as a child was a simple ‘mummy comes to life and eats the people on the boat.’ A bit like Dracula, but I hadn’t read that then. The adult incarnation of it is more complex, and looks at marriage, gender expectations in the 1930’s, the nature of existence. It also alludes to exploration and asks moral and historical questions about museums and artefacts.
A basic summary of this story is that an aristocratic young woman, Amelia, gets married soon after her coming out ball to a man much older, whom she really doesn’t know. She has little experience of life, and is already feeling like there is something missing by the time she goes on honeymoon – which also happens to be doubled up with his archaeological expedition to sell the corpse of a preserved peat-bog man to a museum. A bit of a Mummy-meets-Indiana, but from ‘Amelia’s’ point of view. But what happens next?
It’s worth noting that none of the characters are particularly likeable, but actually you will sympathise with all of them, trapped in their individual situations. Amelia definitely sees herself in the dead bog man!
I have nearly finished the sequel to this story, as, like all classic supernatural tales, there has to be a ‘Mummy Returns’! However, this one leans towards John’s perspective, (he is the husband) and is set just after the second World War.
If you like reading with a bit of an analytical view, you will enjoy the extended metaphors but hopefully it is entertaining and accessible to all. Don’t read it just before bed!