I had decided that Ben (and his family) have to go through the loss/uncertainty of Helen’s fate in some depth in order to have the reader feel the length of time and emptiness of her disappearance. The trouble is knowing just how much to put into the novel. Originally Ben’s father and mother don’t feature in this accept in tv interviews outside their house – but this doesn’t work – they wouldn’t behave like that. They would come out to Iceland. I’ve now had them arrive, which gives me the opportunity to find more scenes and explore more emotions for Ben. The thing is I’m not sure how much to layer on the grief before something more has to happen? I want this section to be quite painful and “empty” but I don’t want to overdo it…?
Chapter one is basically the introduction and Ben’s story of the nine days that Helen is lost. Chapter Two picks up where chapter one left (naturally enough) with Ben and Gerður meeting Helen again, but then goes back to tell the story of those nine days from Helen’s perspective…
The two families sit round the dinner table – the conversation a strange mix of family reunion and wake. Laughter does come, but it is discordantly placed in the setting. Oddly it is Guðni and Heather who find humour the greatest relief, with Baldur and Eyrún joining in reluctantly and with hard felt guilt. Their neice has disappeared, and hopes of her safe return are fading fast, and they are sitting here enjoying haddock fried in a wine and feta cheese sauce?!! Eyrún lays down her knife and fork, turning away from the table she covers her eyes, trying to hide the upset. Guðni moves to comfort his sister, reassuring her – he cracks a joke – tells her that everything will be alright, that Helen will be returned to them.
“How can you be so sure?” Eyrún rallies on her brother, “You don’t know what it’s been like this year? More hikers than ever have been lost this year – not just tourists too, but Icelanders.”
Guðni embraces his sister, telling her it’s not so. It’s just coincidence, that you are only noticing these things now because it’s happened to one of their own. She reacts violently towards his words, rushing from the room out to the kitchen. Her brother follows her, leaving the table appologetically, reassuring the rest of the family. He approaches Eyrún, bent over in tears at the sink, trying to mop them away.
“Somethings happening Guðni. The world is changing. I can feel it.” She lifts her head and looks her brother directly in the eye, “We’re not safe anymore.”
She allows herself to be held in her brother’s arms, “What’s happened to your daughter. That’s proof of it.”
I like this. I think it helps to give the reader the nature of Icelandic family that is so important in (not just the real world) but in the great sagas. It places the story in a real family setting…