Article/page published: 09 January 2017
Last updated: 30 January 2017
It is quiet in the early fields. A bell begins to toll for Mass, and from all over the village dogs set up their barking. A priest in his long skirts stands on the steps of the church. People are coming, clutching their missals. The priest goes inside. He is old.
Latecomers shuffle in the porch. Men in their shirtsleeves stand leaning on the glass at the back of the church. Their shadows hunch about. The voices of the faithful rumble after the priest. A baby’s hand taps on the glass.
Outside the streets are empty. A rook on a post clucks to itself and squawks down, loud-beaked, to its fellows.
Requiem is the first of my two novels for adults, and I still think of it as being my best book! Writing it was a difficult and sometimes emotionally challenging journey through my own adolescence and early adulthood.
While it is not autobiographical, it is strongly influenced by personal memories of when and how I was educated. It began as a short story for Radio, and I later developed it as a play for Radio 4. Later still, I worked on turning it into a novel, and it remains my personal favourite of all my writing. It is essentially a novel about the influences of religion, family and music on a child’s life, and how as a young woman she strives to break free of all these bonds and address the problem which has haunted her since childhood.
Requiem is set in Ireland and in Venice.