Writing nostalgia in Martinis and Memories
I love me some nostalgia. Even though I wasn’t particularly happy in myself in my teen years, I can conjure those moments within seconds. I can be back at a house party when I’m sixteen, and hear the music and remember sitting on the back step with the cool summer air of the evening, the friends I still call best by my side. I can remember the songs we sang along to, and the boys who seemed beautiful.
Nostalgia puts a sheen on everything, like a photo taken on a disposable camera – not sharp or even true sometimes, but distinct as the smell of burnt cookies or the clink of beer bottles.
The same is true for Bel – her past is a different world. One before she became Arabella Hailstone. Before The Martini Club, before burlesque. Back then she was just a kid who was good at ballet because her mother expected her to be. She was the girl who got up to train, expected to win every trophy, before studying, and working in the evenings. The girl who wasn’t too good to work in the chippy on the seafront if it took her one step closer to getting out of Eastbourne.
The people we love exist in the past and sometimes it’s impossible to bring them into the present – too much has changed, too much has been lost, or there’s things you can’t forgive. For Bel, and some of the other characters too, nostalgia is bittersweet – it feels good to escape into for a time, but if she wants to be who she is, who she’s become, she needs to let go.
I think many of us feel that – how do we keep the joy of the child we used to be, the innocence and excitement, whilst growing up and being safe? How do we merge two people to have the best of both? And what happens if the people you love can’t accept the new version of who you are?
In the novel, Bel is faced with three ghosts of her past – the boy she loved, the boy she married, and her mother. Each of them remembers her differently, and each struggles to find a way to know her as who she is now – but how much will she let them know about her new life?
I’m obsessed with nostalgia, with change and growth and being the best version of the person you can be. I’m all about leaving behind that which does not serve you, but every now and then I have a soft spot for the person you loved when the timing wasn’t quite right. And I think Bel does too.