Dear Nobody

 

Once she and I were the most important people in our world. Is this what I’d become to her? Nobody?

“Pregnant, pregnant, What if I’m pregnant?”

I set myself quite a challenge in writing Dear Nobody. It is about a human dilemma. Essentially it’s a story about love. That doesn’t mean that it is a ‘love story’ in the romantic sense. It is about two young people who love each other, but it’s also about family love, the ways in which love can go wrong, how sometimes it makes us do things that aren’t sensible or that hurt people, how sometimes it turns to hate and drives people and families apart.

In the story, when Helen finds out that she has become pregnant, she feels she has no one to turn to. She daren’t tell her mother. She daren’t tell Chris, because parenthood is not something they have ever contemplated – they’re too young for that. She feels utterly alone, and gives voice to the fear inside herself by writing letters to her unborn child, Nobody. But it isn’t just Helen’s story. Chris finds he is to become a father long before he is ready for it. If anything his sense of shock and fear is greater than Helen’s, because he's powerless to make any choices about it.

See also The Snake-stone, which is a novel about teenage pregnancy and adoption.

And then they have to face their families. Even though they feel terribly alone with their dilemma, they can’t keep it from their families forever. Everything we do affects somebody else, often in a surprising way. Dear Nobody is not just about the journey that Helen and Chris make away from their childhood, but about the journey they make towards knowing their own parents properly.

I talked to lots of young people in schools when I wrote the novel. I didn’t want to write about their experiences, because I had the story and characters in my head by then. But I did want to know how people feel about love and friendship, relationships with parents, responsibility and loyalty. Since I wrote the novel it has gone into many different languages all round the world, and into several different forms, (plays for the theatre, radio and television, playscripts for schools). I think maybe the reason why it has had such wide appeal is because the subject that it deals with – love, and all its complications, is something that affects us all in one way and another, and that really matters to us. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to talk about love, whether it’s physical or emotional, and a play or a story can help us to understand things that are difficult to handle.

Novels take us on a journey, they take us out of ourselves into the world of strangers, but sometimes the journey also takes us into our own emotions. Teenagers, of all people, need to find themselves in the literature that they read, and in the plays and films that they see.

I knew that in Dear Nobody I was handling a difficult situation. Chris writes the story, and through it explores not only his own emotions but also those of their two families. This was important for me, even though it’s obviously more difficult for a woman writer to write in the first person of a male. Why did I choose to write it in this way? I want it to work for boys as well as for girls, because they are an equal part of the equation when it comes to making a baby. I wanted to imagine the sort of emotional upheaval that a situation like this might make in the life of a young man still at school. But, having decided that I was going to write the story from Chris’s point of view, I was setting myself a major problem. It is Helen who is pregnant. How was I going to explore the emotional and physical turmoil that she was going through? Who would she turn to? Then I had the idea of having her pour out all her feelings of fear and loneliness and wonder in a series of letters to her unborn child. At first she is not even sure that she is pregnant, it’s just a nightmare feeling that won’t go away. So she writes to nobody – and when I wrote down those first two words, Dear Nobody, I knew that I had the title of my book. That is one title that has never been changed in any of the translations – sometimes it’s even published with the English words Dear Nobody.

Here is a link to a very informative blog on Dear Nobody.

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