fiction book and the novel just doesn‘t exist.‘ says Bathurst. What has upset her so much'.’ Perhaps it‘s the swearing. of which there‘s a lot. Maybe it‘s the drugs and alcohol passages. Possibly there‘s a bit too much rough sex. ()r it could be down to the disregard for authority and the brutal way Bella‘s girls talk to each other.
Whatever has caused the upset. .S‘peeia/ is certainly a few worlds away from Bathurst‘s bestselling tale of an engineering family (who happened to house one of the country‘s most lauded authors) and their pioneering habits which eventually altered the Scottish landscape forever and made the nation‘s choppier waters a safer place to navigate.
After a career in freelance journalism. her first
book choice surprised herself as much as any of
her mocking colleagues. ‘lf you write a book about lighthouses. you have to get used to a lot of knob jokes.‘ she says. ‘People just thought it was funny or they thought it was very esoteric or just really dull. My old boss at The Seoisinaii. Alan Taylor. took the piss relentlessly. People were like: “What are you going to write about next: manhole covers“'."
Born in London in 196‘). Bathurst has spent much of her life divided between Scotland and lingland. It wasn‘t too long before writing became some kind of calling. Her first published work was a short story called 'The (‘at and the liishfinger‘. She was eight. Her mum liked it. Later she was exhibiting classic journalistic tendencies to get an interview with author Deborah Moggach. and her first article was published in a daily national: ‘lt was slightly cheating as she was the mother of my sister‘s best friend.‘
At Durham L'niversity. she ditched linglish for history. '1 got really annoyed that studying literature was destroying my interest in reading. having to take apart all these texts. I am never voluntarily going to read Beowaif'.‘ And then she used her ‘contacts‘ to get her first article written and the rest is a snowballing story of columns and reviews and interviews.
But the eventual daily grind of the freelance world began to wear Bathurst out. One day she found herself at a loose end (‘skiving‘) and wandering around London‘s Science Museum where she stumbled upon a section devoted to the Scottish engineer Robert Stevenson. ‘Somewhere in the back of my memory I knew that Robert Louis Stevenson was descended from engineers and I went down to the bookshop to see if they had anything on it. They checked on the microfiche and there wasn‘t a single book. So I went home and even though I failed everything scientific at school. I thought: “OK. I‘ll do it.“‘
And do it she did. ()ne year‘s exhaustive research speaking to the Northern Lighthouse Board. keepers on Lewis and relatives of the Stevensons was followed by its writing and once The Lighthouse Stevensons became a fixture on the shelves. the
‘IF YOU PUT ANY 'All the autobiographical Ev stuff didn‘t work. It was rubbish. so I cut it out.‘ Her mum must have breathed a sigh of relief.
reaction from critics and book-buyers alike was storming. Her old boss Alan Taylor dropped his scepticism to describe it as ‘enthralling‘ and 'vivacious‘. while lan Bell. a devoted RLS buff.
reckoned that the author of 'l‘reasare Island himself
‘would have relished the tale‘.
‘I felt that the Stevensons were so worthy of
attention that I wanted to make it not about Scotland but about what they achieved under the conditions.‘ she says. ‘But I feel really lucky about the reviews. I got such an easy ride last time and I‘ve got it coming. Really got it coming.‘
That will remain to be seen. What Bathurst has given us is a vivid delve into the minds and motives of young women when they are in close proximity. The self-loathing and harsh auto- criticism of the characters (particularly the anorexic Hen. an isolated Scot among all her linglish mates) drives the narrative as well as the natural tendency to explore their burgeoning. scary passions.
'When you‘re a teenager. you‘re so obsessed by your own uniqueness.‘ says Bathurst. ‘Nobody understands you and you‘re the only person on the planet and you‘re listening to the Smiths. liither that or you feel invincible. In terms of doing right. there‘s a certain morality that exists between teenagers which is very separate from the morality that exists between teenagers and the adult world. You‘ve got to lose your virginity. got to take drugs. got to live harder and faster than anybody else. And it‘s difficult to know what's right and wrong because of that pressure.‘
In the novel. that tension divides the pals and leads to a violent climax which is alluded to throughout with some recurring images of decay and death. A longing to explore division where unity is meant to exist was one of Bathurst‘s key motives in writing the book. 'Speeial started because you occasionally hear things about "the sisterhood“ and how women are nicer than men. as if it was a generally accepted fact. And I‘d always disagreed because I never thought that one sex was
you put any group. whether male or female. into a confined space. a hierarchy develops very quickly and they‘ll eventually destroy each other. It‘s the Big Brother or Survivor thing: somebody has to go.‘
All that Nietszchean malarkey has led to lazy comparisons already with Lord of the Flies (though perhaps that would have been ditched had she stuck to one of her original titles for the book: 'I‘eeil Love Vixens in Forest Sex Drama). And anyway. Bathurst hasn‘t so much as dreamed about carving a conch in her life.
Special is published by Picador on Fri 11 Oct priced £15.99.
better than the other. But if
WANNA BE IN MY GANG?
Girls might just want to have fun, but when they get together, the boys better watch their backs. Words: Brian Donaldson
Spice Girls Yes they were a bunch of gaudily—garbed harlots who raved about Girl Power without actually telling anyone what it was. But for one very brief moment. they did upset the patriarchal status duo.
Smack the Pony The first all-female sketch show troupe to really matter. Fiona Allen. Sally
, . . Phillips and Doon Mackichan scratched away the old lie that women aren't funny. Even their period jokes were fresh.
Set it Off Jada Pinkett and Queen Latifah starred a .y ~ ~ , in a heist movie ‘ ‘: . . with balls. In
the mid-908. this quartet of girlz in the hood were the perfect antidote to all those men (both black and white) trying to look cool with their weapons.
The Sopranos Not the mob from New Jersey but the dames Created by Alan Warner. They
.; came down to
y . ,» the big city from the frozen north for bevvy and boys. when they should have been relaxing their vocal chords for a singing contest.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Not many peOple have put forward Russ "\R Meyer as a _ .V g}; . ,_ ) thrusting icon ” 4‘». Of arch feminism. but his manic 1965 tale of disco dancers stomping all over the menlolk showed he could portray strong women. Especially ones with vast jugs.
3—1 7 Oct 2002 THE LIST 23