I had the pleasure of hearing Ceridwen Dovey talk about her latest book, Life After Truth at a recent work event (the YouTube recording of the event can be found here). By the time she had finished speaking, I knew this would be my next read.
I’m not sure why I’ve found it so hard to write up my review for this book though. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it as a great holiday read. So instead of talking about my journey with the book, I will focus on what I learnt from the author talk, which then informed how I read the story.
Ceridwen evoked a lovely reading memory for me when she talked about one of her inspirations for writing a story about a 15 year reunion at Harvard University. Like me, she had devoured Erich Segal’s Harvard stories, The Class (1985) and Doctors (1988) way back when.
I read The Class in the early 1990’s. I remember loving the huge rollicking epic nature of the story as we followed the fates and fortunes of five or six Harvard undergrads during their college days and into their adult lives. Back then, the chunkier the book, the better, was my motto! When I googled the book to refresh my memory, I was amazed at how simply seeing the names, Andrew Eliot, Jason Gilbert Jr, Theodore Lambros, Daniel Rossi and George Keller again, brought back so much of the story.
The second inspiration for Ceridwen was her very own 15 yr, class of 2003 reunion, in 2018. All her friends and class mates were approaching 40 and various mid-life crisis were on show – emotional, hormonal, intellectual, financial and philosophical.
The class of 2003 had some interesting graduates besides Dovey. Natalie Portman and Jared Kushner for starters. Mark Zuckerberg was in the following year.Ceridwen stresses that none of her characters are based on real life people. However, she was drawn to using the polar opposite characters, of a movie star and the son of a President in her story, as she found the contrast appealing. Thanks to her social anthropology background, she likes to write not so much what she knows, but towards what she wants to know. Which is, ‘how do people make meaning from their daily lives.’ Or how do live the second half of your life differently to the first half.
For anyone who has read Dovey’s earlier books, it is noticeable that the voice is very different in this story. It was a deliberate choice, although, also slightly out of Ceridwen’s hands, as she finds that writing in different voices and styles comes naturally to her. She considers Life After Truth to be some kind of self-help novel, written in a fog of insomnia.
She tried submitting and getting one of her books published under a different name to reflect the different voice she had used. But the publishers were not keen for a pseudonym, and neither was Dovey, as she feels that what she does is closer to the literary concept of heteronyms. The publishers were even less keen to go with this idea!
Recently she got around this by creating a story for Audible Originals called Once More With Feeling. It was a story she wrote, in what she describes as a ‘warmer more accessible voice’, purely with how it would sound, read aloud, in mind. Apparently she has a whole linen cupboard full of such stories, written in different voices, that she doesn’t know what to do with.
As for Life After Truth, Dovey considers this her attempt to document the post truth world we all now live in, as well as a little nod towards the Harvard motto, Veritas, and what life is like for it’s students after graduation.
Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis
Last time I wrote one of these updates it was to brag about my life.
- One of Dovey’s favourite poets is Fernando Pessoa – famous for his use of heteronyms.
- She studied social anthropology at Harvard
My Reviews of her Other Works (so far):