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«Read Regional 2020

C.J. Cooke: The Blame Game

The main character of The Blame Game is Helen Pengilly, a wife and mother in her mid-thirties who is confronted with her past in one of the most unlikely places. She’s driven by a need to keep her family together, but this is also a flaw, as she makes choices for the sake of her family that compromise her own well-being (and ultimately her family). I was thinking about the secrets that even a long-term relationship can hold, and in the book the secrets between Helen and Michael eventually implode.

The book has a lot of different settings. I actually visited Belize some time ago and had a serious car accident! At least that experience proved to be good in terms of book research! I have never visited Mont Blanc, however, nor do I climb, so it was a challenge to undertake a story that required so much knowledge of both climbing and the terrain.

One of the characters in the book is autistic, and this was a conscious choice, driven by my daughter’s diagnosis shortly before embarking on the book. I wanted to write a character who just happens to be autistic – the story isn’t about him or his condition, nor does his autism serve a narrative purpose. He just is autistic, because we live in a neurodiverse world.

Questions for Readers

The book is concerned with the unseen in contexts of disability, trauma, memories, and secrets. What aspect of the unseen struck you most?

How do you think the different settings of the past and present stories (Mont Blanc and Belize) capture the characters’ emotional journeys?

The elements play a subtle symbolic role in the book. What did you think fire represented in the book?

Recommended Reading

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
My Heroes by Ranulph Fiennes

CJ Cooke is an author of environmental gothic novels. Place plays a huge role in these books, and she is interested in exploring the boundaries of trauma and place. Her previous novel is I Know My Name (HarperCollins, 2017) and her next novel – which is set in Norway – is The Nesting (HarperCollins, 2020).

 

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