Today we talk about Breathless, a book by Cathy Donald published with our publishing house Europe Books.
Europe Books had the pleasure of interviewing the author Cathy Donald, to get to know her better, what was the moment that led her to the writing of her book Breathless, as well as what particularly significant experiences in her life find expression in her story.
Below you can find our interview. Take a seat and enjoy your reading!!!
- What prompted you to write your book?
I am a medical doctor and work in a place called Somerset West in the Western Cape province of South Africa. When the Covid-19 pandemic swept through our world, it affected us all in different ways. We were anxious, fearful, frightened about our lives and our livelihoods; but none more so than we, doctors, who needed to get ready to fight an invisible and unknown enemy amidst the panic and the hysteria of our patients. This prompted me to write this story about doctors and their families. It is about ordinary people, sometimes doing extraordinary things, but with the same fears, needs and dreams as their non-medical counterparts. It tells the tale of men and women who were thrust into roles for which they were ill-equipped, and learning to deal with the physical stress and the emotional burden whilst trying to keep their everyday lives in balance. In a post-vaccination world, we quickly forget how hard it was in the early days of this ruthless pandemic and the book serves as a tribute to the many courageous people who made a difference in helping to win the war.
- What particularly significant experiences in your life find expression in your story?
My husband is an anaesthesiologist and worked in the Intensive Care Unit during the pandemic, just as my main character, Emily, did. His experiences have coloured my writing and I have tried to replicate something of the intense physical fatigue and emotional pain over those weeks and months which were experienced by him and his colleagues. I also worked in the wards during the second wave and acquired first-hand knowledge of the exhaustion of both staff and patients, as well as the very real fear that patients and their loved ones experienced during the course of their illness. But, despite this, there were many amazing rays of hope; the camaraderie of the health care workers embodied by the beautiful Jerusalema anthem that bound us together, the kindness of the community towards health care workers and the exhilaration of survival in a world where, at that time, it was not guaranteed. So many small incidents in our Covid-19 world wormed their way into this book adding richness, humour and pathos to a time which, as human beings, we have never experienced before.
- What is the message you want to communicate to your readers?
What I most want to communicate through this book is the resilience of the human spirit; the fact that life can throw almost anything at us and, if we have courage, tenacity, faith and a sense of humour, we can emerge on the other side. Perhaps we will be battered and bruised. Perhaps the very roots of our existence will have been exposed and shaken. But we will go on. And in time we will learn to laugh, to live and to love. During the pandemic most of us went back to basics. We spent time with the loved ones that were near. We realised how much we loved and missed those who were far. We stopped chasing our tails and for a while we let the hamster wheels of our lives slow down and stop. We took stock of what was really important and cherished it. So, the essential message of the book is to look beyond the destruction and the horror of the pandemic and allow it to be the wind that separates the wheat and the chaff in our lives, allowing it to change us for the better.
- How did your passion for writing start?
I was one of those bookish children who spent pocket money on exercise books so that I could write stories that probably only my mother and I would read! I loved to stretch my imagination to the limits. But even more than that, I have always been fascinated by people – what makes them tick and how different we all are even in the same circumstances. During my earlier years, I wrote scripts for plays and for musicals, since music was also an important part of my life, and had the joy of producing some of these to schools and youth communities. When my three children left school and embarked on their own careers (two of them in health care) I had the time to indulge my passion for writing. This is my fourth novel. All of them take place in my beautiful country of South Africa and most revolve around friendship and family and take a wider look at some of the challenges that face us in life.
- Are you working on a new writing project?
I am currently engaged in writing my fifth novel. These fingers are not able to be still for very long! My new novel is, in a way very different from the others. It is set in London and is called ‘The First Stone’. This alludes to the reaction of Jesus to the community’s judgement of the prostitute they wanted to stone. ‘Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone’. It is about a teenager, accused of a crime she didn’t commit, who is remanded into the custody of her great-aunt after this misdemeanour. Their difficult relationship, fuelled by judgement and poor self-esteem, is disturbed by the arrival of a pregnant fugitive from justice, who hides in the great-aunt’s garden shed. In banding together to find this woman when she flees again and to understand and support her, they come to appreciate each other’s strengths and to forgive each other’s weaknesses.
Europe Books thanks the author Cathy Donald once again for taking the time and answering our questions. We are really pleased to have walked alongside her on the editorial path that led to the publication of her book Breathless. We wish her the best of luck for her future works.
To you, my dear reader, I wish that this book offers insights into the resilience of the human spirit. We often find ourselves faced with a series of events that shake us, tear us down, make us want to give up. And it is precisely in that moment that we have to bring out the courage, the strength, the faith, paradoxically looking for a little lightness in facing difficulties. So, I really hope that this book will help you, through its message, to look beyond and not to get lost in the suffering and pain!
So, my dear reader, all I have to say is to enjoy this emotional and reflective reading!