Claire Varley's debut novel, The Bit In Between
, hit our shelves in August, and it's a book that Claire refers to as her love letter to the Solomons.
There are seven billion people in the world, and this is the story of two of them. After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her. With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver's story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation.
We asked Claire what inspired her to write the book and she's answered that question for us in this special guest post.
For nearly two years I lived in a remote village in the Solomon Islands without television, newspapers, radio or internet. Apart from the community development project I was working on, the rest of the time was spent either eating kumara or sitting down to stori
, the Solomon past time of sharing news, information and gossip. I kept up this tradition on the odd occasions I took the 24-hour ship ride to the capital Honiara, exploring the stories of locals, foreigners and the raft of other people who find themselves beneath the Solomon palms. (Usually this was the foreigners because the locals know about coconuts...)
I became obsessed with the notion that we are all just the accumulated backstory of everything that has brought us to this exact point in time; all those minor or major decisions we make or that are made for us, that steer us into the present. The Bit In Between
is the story of people. It is the story of Alison and Oliver, the two protagonists, but it is also the story of the many people they interact with in fleeting or meaningful ways.
There are so many people in this world. I know at least twenty of them. Right now I can see a whole bunch of them outside my kitchen window*. Each of us has a fascinating story and I tried to capture some of these in The Bit In Between
as I lay in my hammock, swaying pendulum like in the Pacific breeze, hoping it might make people laugh-cry-laugh and that I wouldn’t get malaria before it was published. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get malaria.
* My kitchen window looks out onto a suburban train platform. There aren’t people in my yard. You don’t need to call the police but props to your vigilance.