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Fran Clark is a singer/songwriter and vocal coach born and raised in West London, where she currently lives and works with her musician husband and two sons.
Her desire to write had been restricted to the storytelling aspect of her song writing but she always longed to explore these stories further.
The seeds of Holding Paradise were sown in her mind about ten years before she commenced writing.
Fran is currently working towards the completion of her second album and has another work of fiction in progress.
The secrets of mother and daughter will either bind them together or make them fall…
On a grey and miserable morning in 2008, London businesswoman, Angelica Ford boards a plane and flies off to the blues and greens of her mother’s island in the Caribbean.
Angelica is desperate. She is looking for a way to save her marriage and win back her daughter. A web of lies has torn a hole into her seemingly perfect world and she is convinced that only her mother, Josephine Dennis, can help her turn her life around.
Josephine Dennis arrived in England by ship on a cold winter’s morning as a young mother joining her husband. She weathers a lifetime of secrets and betrayal, as she raises her family in 1960s London.
A matriarch with strong family values, she told her children colourful stories to guide them through life. It is the wisdom of one of these stories that Angelica seeks.
Josephine has one last story to tell – the story that could change both of their lives.
EXTRACT FROM HOLDING PARADISE
Josephine was the fourth child of a family of eight children. Apart from her younger sister, Eunice, the rest were boys. Josephine had a gift. Some members of her family found it frightening, others were amazed and wished they too could have such a gift. For Josephine, it could be the greatest of burdens, yet at times it made her feel special.
On several occasions, Josephine had accurately predicted the future through her dreams – vivid dreams about family, friends, local people. Every detail, each word, was fixed clearly in her mind and she would tell her mother exactly what she saw as though she’d read it in one of her school books.
Only a few of her dreams were predictions and she recognised them as such when she woke, hot, out of breath and unable to get the images out of her head. Her sister called her a witch. Josephine’s mother, Rose, discouraged her from telling anyone outside the family about it for fear of what others might say.
On a cool January morning, Josephine and her family awoke one by one and left their warm beds. The younger three were loud and playful, ready to embrace each waking moment. The older children, knowing it was another school day, washed and dressed slowly, hoping to cling to as much of their freedom as possible.
Rose was unusually late that morning. She worked hard every day but would normally be the first to get up, see to the little ones and make breakfast for everyone. Today she had managed to gain an extra twenty minutes of sleep. She was surprised to discover her husband’s side of the bed empty and cool to the touch when she stretched and rolled over.
Her husband stood in the kitchen – the small, low-built shack in the yard, where he had already prepared and eaten a light breakfast before his journey. He was about to travel across the island to visit his parents and to do some work on their house. They were getting older and Raphael took responsibility for helping them as often as he could.
It was five-thirty and pitch black outside. Cool and still. Most of the crickets appeared to have forsaken their chorus, only a few continuing a refrain which was about to be outdone by the morning’s birdsong. Very soon, the transport to his parents’ small village, an hour away, would be leaving. Raphael had to hurry.
As he left the kitchen, he hitched a small bag over his shoulder and looked up. From the top of the steps that led up to their wooden house on stilts, three sets of eyes spied him – his two youngest sons and his daughter, Josephine. He waved a quick goodbye and went on his way.
Josephine’s father, Raphael, loved nothing better than to play and talk with her. His first daughter, now aged ten, was bright and intelligent and full of imagination and stories. In many ways Josephine was like her father. They shared a resemblance and similar sense of humour. They could chat endlessly, sitting as they often did on the second of the five steps to their front door, sampling fruit Raphael had picked from his garden.
‘So, my Josephine. What did you learn at school today?’ Raphael always made a grand gesture of presenting Josephine with the first piece of mango, melon or avocado.
‘Well Daddy, Miss Brown gave us a test to see if we know our five times table.’
'And how you score?’
'Well I only get some right and a lot wrong.’
‘And what that tell you?’
‘It tell me I don’t like times tables and I don’t like Miss Brown.’
Whereas her mother would tell Josephine she should work harder, Raphael just tilted back his head, opening his wide mouth to give way to the thunderous roar of laughter which resonated in his chest. His laugh echoed around the wooden houses and told everyone that Raphael was home.
It was laughter or a cheerful whistle that would signal Raphael’s arrival back from his garden. There he grew provisions like yams, plantain and green bananas both for the family and to sell at market. Packing the produce into a large sack that he carried on his head, he would walk the twenty minutes back home, whistling, his cutlass swinging idly at his side.
This morning, the children waved and called goodbye to their father but could barely make him out as he stepped carefully on his way out of their front yard and onto the dusty road. Raphael passed two houses. Outside of each, a small dog resided. From their front yards the dogs barked in unison. A little further along the road, Ma Taylor’s goat bleated, as though in response to her canine neighbours. The tiny hamlet was waking up. Raphael waited only minutes beside the old Glory cedar before jumping onto the lorry full of travellers from the last two villages. By the time the villagers reached the next stop, the lorry’s headlights would be switched off and the sun would be high in the sky.
The two oldest boys went into the kitchen to light the fire under the stove. Josephine lingered at the front door of the house, picturing her father finding his place on the lorry and holding tight while it accelerated along the narrow road.
Rose came out of her bedroom to make her way to the kitchen. Her arms were raised as she secured her bright red headscarf that bit tighter to her head. She caught the look on her daughter’s face.
'Josephine,’ she said. ‘Don’t look at me like that, you making me afraid.’ Rose was afraid because the look on her daughter’s face told her that Josephine had had a dream and that its message was not good.
It happened just like the dream.