April 27, 2017 | Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.
Watch Over Me is an un-put-downable dystopian novel by Claire Corbett. It maintains a bleak, tense atmosphere and sharp dialogue, with humour and romance thrown in as well. Watch the blog for a review next week, but why wait?…find out yourself and buy it now. I’m thrilled to have Claire on LOVEthatBOOK today with a guest post about Cloudberries.
The Mysterious Charm of Cloudberries
by Claire Corbett
‘Muffins,’ the captain said. ‘What kind?’
The lieutenant raised his head as if it weighed him down like
a boulder. ‘Cloudberry?’ he said to the captain. ‘That a real thing?’ – p.50
This scene in Watch Over Me forms part of the first face-to-face meeting between my main character, Sylvie, and the young lieutenant who has rescued her. The scene has both tension and comedy: as an outsider, an invader, the lieutenant irritates Sylvie with his arrogance, the superiority of the soldier for whom the people he’s conquered are at best quaint, at worst a threat.
Far from understanding the sacred role cloudberries play in Arctic culture (Arctic Gold, they’re called), he’s not even sure they’re real because he’s never heard of them. And yet so important are cloudberries that, as Sylvie has to tell the soldiers, it is against the law to pick unripe ones.
This passage was partly inspired by my husband’s reaction to reading the scene: cloudberries sounded so strange and charming that he assumed I must have made them up.
But Watch Over Me, though it has a fabulous feel because of the extreme qualities of the High Arctic, is as real in every detail as possible: the names of ships, the songs Sylvie and the soldiers listen to, the beginning of Polar Night, the day the sun does not rise above the horizon for the first time in winter.
I knew I had a feel for this landscape, having been born in Canada and living in similar country but I knew nothing of cloudberries before writing Watch Over Me and certainly not that they’re so delicate that they mostly only grow wild.
Tasting both sweet and acid, cloudberries appear like gifts from another time, before supermarkets (they resent being handled). You have to hunt them down yourself and if you discover such a swamp (they like swamps) you will keep it as hidden as a state secret. Being so elusive, they are used in desserts for special occasions, in dishes such as cloudberry ice cream, cloudberry pannacotta, cloudberry meringues and distilled into a liqueur called Lakka.
Researching such enchanting elements in Watch Over Me was one of the great joys of writing this book.
Claire Corbett was born in Canada and has worked in film and government policy. Her first novel, When We Have Wings, was published in 2011 and shortlisted for the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award and the 2012 Ned Kelly Award or Best First Fiction. Her recent fiction and essays have been published in a range of journals, including The Best Australian Stories 2014/2015, Griffith Review, Southerly and Overland. She has written on defence and strategy for The Diplomat, The Strategist and The Monthly.
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