A Name to Watch: Discovering Beth Moran

 

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Here’s somethingthat I love: discovering a new, post-1830s writer (long in-joke story, to be dutifully explained another time!) who is talented, pithy, and not well known enough. So: this blog post is an attempt to redress that a little. And to write everything that I could not write in my word-limited commendation.

I was approached by the lovely Lion Hudson – who publish my own novels – and asked if I would consider reading a title with a view to giving a commendation. Ego suitably massaged, I said I should be delighted. The quirkily ring-bound proof that appeared on my doorstep a couple of days later was for ‘The Name I Call Myself‘ by Beth Moran – due for publication next month.

Now, I had heard of Beth Moran – like me, she was an award-winner of the IndieFab awards with her novel ‘Making Marion’ back in 2015. Unlike me, she had won gold in her category. Additionally, her praises had been sung highly to me by our local Christian book shop owner who, a year ago, was practically on tenterhooks for the next novel. And I – saturated with the works of Shakespeare et alia – looked at the cover, discerned chick lit, smiled, and thought: not for me.

Wrong.

Maybe it’s that I’m in a different phase of life, now, but Moran’s latest book caught me at once. The blurb was skilled, intriguing – of the kind that left you thinking ‘I can guess where this story is going to go, but I want to read to find out if I’m right, and I’m ready to have the cockles of my heart warmed by a predictable romance plot, and then I shall feel smug because I predicted it. And it will probably be an alright read.’.

Wrong. It was more than alright. And not really predictable.

From the first paragraph, I knew I was dealing with a pro. Believe me: as a novelist whose fantasy trilogy was almost the length of ‘War and Peace’ (that’s a lot of editing!!); as a literary critic well versed in the subtle arts of the grammarian and rhetorician; as a teacher far too accustomed to the pony-story that could use a few more choice structural and descriptive devices… Well, I know quality when I read it. Moran has quality – buckets and buckets of it.

Let me just share with you the commendation that I wrote, and expand on it:

‘Moran is a worthy inheritor of Austen’s mantel: her writing is witty, engaging, funny, poignant. She tackles the realities of love, loss, abuse and redemption with insight; considered without being heavy-handed, light-hearted without ever compromising on emotional depth. This is chick-lit as it should be – a page-turner whose heroine is transformed and whose journey is not superficial, but edifying and emboldening.’

I mean every single word of it.

Inheritor of Austen? High praise, but true. Why? Because Austen looks at the roles, constrictions and difficulties that women find themselves in, contrasting what the heart wants against what society expects. Moran’s heroine, Faith, is caught in a rather Austenian dilemma, replete with social expectations and complications. Like Austen, Moran explores this position with humour and wit, and her heroine, while no doormat, has a lesson to learn.

Something else that impressed me about this book was its ability to weave between a harrowing backstory and the kind of humour that we so expect from our chick-lit heroines. As a mum to a 3 and 1 year old – and a fairly geeky one at that – I found myself laughing out loud at the depictions of the character Marilyn’s life with tiny tots, and enjoying a really broad spectrum of cultural references. Moran can go from these scenes to the truly troubling realities of what it is to be a survivor of abusive relationships, and the shadows that that can cast.

That weaving is part of what makes Moran’s talent so notable, but there’s more to it than that. In my commendation, I mentioned that I feel that this novel is exactly what chick-lit ought to be: far from being submerged in the consumerist superficialities of the chick flick; far from revelling in a series of comical one-night-stands in the quest for ‘true love’; far from reducing the heroine to a quivering, objectified trophy for a perfect man – Moran writes a female protagonist whose journey not only changes and emboldens her, but edifies the reader, too.

Wholesome, challenging, funny, engaging, reality-checked writing, with a sluice of accomplished technical features and exquisite literary devices that gel together into an effortless read? That about sums this up.

Don’t know Beth Moran? Check out this novel when it appears next month. I know one thing for sure: at the earliest opportunity afforded to me by my wee ones, I shall be acquiring Moran’s other novels, and watching out for the next one!

This post also appears at my sister site, www.thayerthoughts.wordpress.com .

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