The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart opens with 9-year-old Alice Hart dreaming of ways to set her father on fire. The desk where she sits is made of eucalyptus and superbly crafted by him. But the same man who lovingly creates beautiful objects, is also the monster whose ‘blue eyes turn black with rage.’ A man easy with his fists, capable of throwing a puppy against the side of a washing machine and of doing much worse to his pregnant wife and daughter.
WORDS || Holly Ringland
The genesis of this novel was trauma. I’ve lived with male-perpetrated violence for a lot of my life, which silenced my voice, courage and the dream of being a writer I’ve had since I was a child. In 2012, I started a PhD in Creative Writing. My research
looked at traumatic experience and the process of writing fiction. It was through this research that I discovered Tom Spanbauer’s concept of ‘dangerous writing’, which is the idea of going into the sore place we all have inside of us, and writing from that place; using fiction as the lie that tells the truth. I realised that I’d never written from the sore place. If anything, I’d written around it, aside it, in spite of it. Never from it. So, my research became my own call to arms, but threw up all kinds of questions for me. What would become of me and my life if I wrote the thing I was most scared to write? What story would emerge, and how might it live in other people’s hearts, if it ever saw the light of day? What else can trauma be made into, other than unrememberable memories? These kinds of questions are why I wrote The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart.
I started writing the novel in May 2014. I’d had an immediate-family bereavement and the madness of grief and being so close to mortality drove me to find the strength I needed to be bigger than my fears and just start. I sat at my writing desk in Manchester, uncapped my pen, and wrote the first line as if I knew it by heart. I handwrote the first 11,000 words over the following month. Possibly the most beautiful part of writing this novel was the enormous honour I had of creating the Thornfield language of flowers. I spent the first years of my life often playing in my grandmother’s abundant garden that grew alongside her house and as I grew up I watched my mother turn to coaxing flowers from dirt in her own garden. After I moved to England in 2009, I came across the Victorian language of flowers for the first time. As I read about this 19th century floral craze that swept across Europe, a spark came to life in my mind. It remained there, flickering in the background, until 2014 when I started writing Lost Flowers. I knew from being in the gardens of the women who raised me that Australian flora often thrives under harsh conditions, in extreme landscapes and weather. Thornfield and its language grew from there, as I considered the ways we find to use our voices even when we’re not able to literally tell our stories.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is for every reader who has ever felt like their voice has been silenced. For women who doubt the worth and power of their story. For readers who love their fiction infused with a sense of wonder, and love page-turning
fiction driven by messy characters who make the wrong choices with the best intentions. This book is for readers who believe that stories can be the kind of magic that has the power to change our lives.