Fell is a novel about healing and hope set in Grange-over-Sands in the early 1960s. It tells two entwined stories. In 1963 Jack, his wife Netty and their young daughter Annette meet a charismatic and mysterious stranger while on a day out at the lido. The stranger – a young man called Timothy Richardson – seems to heal Jack’s life-long short-sightedness and promises he can help Netty too, who has terminal cancer and has been sent home to die. In the present day, Annette – now in her sixties – has returned to her childhood home to clean and sell it. While there she disturbs the spirits of her parents, still clinging to the house – and together they remember those last, confusing months of Netty’s life, the dangerous nature of hope, the impossibilities of miracles and the persistence of kindness.
There were two main inspirations for me when I set out to write this book. The first was the place itself – Grange-over-Sands, a quiet, fairly well-heeled little town on the edge of Morecambe bay – and the bay itself, which with its erratic, beautiful and very unpredictable nature, seemed to say so much about the way illness changes not only the physical existence of the person who is sick, but entire family dynamics. I was also very curious about the idea of healing – it was a topic I’d touched on, very slightly, in The Friday Gospels – but never really unpicked or explored. I wanted to know what it was like to be healed, or to need healing desperately and have it dangled in front of you, just out of reach. And I wanted to know what it was like to be able perform healings – to have that unpredictable power – and whether it would feel like a gift, or a curse. I can’t say I have the answer to all these questions, but writing Fell was the way I chose to think about them – and perhaps offer the reader a space to think about them too.