In the World’s Shadows is a hauntingly beautiful book about the life of a young boy growing into adulthood after WWII. With little support from his parents, he suffers tragically and must overcome life’s challenges alone. This novel is meant for anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one or the struggles of life. It gives hope and encouragement to face the adversity we see in the world, even today. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Project Dreamscape is fascinated with living legends and their heroic tales, so we asked Chris Hamilton to tell us more about his new novel.
Tell us a bit about your book, In the World’s Shadows.
It is a story of a young boy, whose father is an officer in the Indian Army, forced to move with his mother to South Africa following the invasion of India in World War II by the Japanese. He grows up on a farm in Stellenbosch, and witnesses the evils of Apartheid introduced by the pro Nazi Nationalist Government.
When his mother gets involved with a domineering heavy drinking businessman, he is packed off to England and a father he can’t remember, whose lack of warmth stems from his own suffering fighting the Japanese.
He establishes a life in England but eventually returns to South Africa, bereft after the loss of his beloved wife, taken by a crippling illness.
Christopher now attempts to find a new path through life, alone. His grief leads him to many wrong turns, but family and friends – not least Aunt Babs, offer him a glimpse of a less troubled, more bearable, future.
When he meets Sarah, a woman trapped in her own unhappy world, he is finally able to rediscover a loving relationship that makes life worth living.
This is clearly a story told from the heart and your experiences, why are you sharing it with the world?
My life has been affected by world events such as war and apartheid, and also by personal tragedy. I thought that people who have had similar experiences in one way or another might want to read a story about coming through adversity to a place of contentment. I also found it cathartic to set down some of my experiences on paper. I should emphasis that the book is not an autobiography. I have developed or changed various events and characters, with a view to appealing to a wider readership, while still trying to convey the way I see the world based on what I have lived through. I have received moving feedback from readers who have experienced similar issues. One reader who had been brought up in South Africa said she cried when reading the book because she found the story so powerful.
Can you discuss the themes of love and hope that you explore in your writing? Why is it important for people to have hope?
Hope produces joy and peace, the anticipation something good to come in the future. Hope needs to be part of our daily lives, to give us courage to get through tough times when life is at its worst. However, people who are suffering from the loss of a loved one, or in debt, or depressed, or terminally ill are often unable to think of hope. They cannot see any prospect of light at the end of the tunnel. When you read “In the World’s Shadows” many of the characters suffer in various ways, but some at least do find hope and pull through.
Often, hope can be found through the love that someone else shows for you. In the book, Aunt Babs is full of love and hope for everyone. Pouring out her love and giving her life to the impoverished, and persecuted blacks during the bleak years of apartheid and the years which followed. She fought courageously with Bishop Tutu, Helen Suzman and Nelson Mandela against the oppressive system of apartheid targeting the corrupt Nationalist government. She gave hope to her flock that one day with God’s help there would be freedom. She also gives Christopher her love and support when he returns to South Africa after the shattering loss of his wife, and helps him to start on the long and arduous path to recovery.
Do you see parallels with your story, which is set just after WWII, and our world today? If so, what are they and what can we as a society learn today from the past?
World War II separated many families for years. Some were reunited after the war, which could bring its own challenges, as people had been greatly changed by their experiences. Other relationships were never restored. Many thousands of children born just before the war were sent from war zones in the British Colonies to a foreign country and would never see their parents again.
I think there are many parallels with my story in our world today. Whilst we have not experienced another World War, devastating wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Libya, Chechnya, Sudan, etc have resulted in the displacement of millions of families and children living in the most appalling conditions and on a much larger scale than in World War II.
Your writing style is vivid and compelling. What is your method? Where do you get inspiration?
I started to write late in life because I had the urge and ambition to tell the world my story. At the time I didn’t have the tools a writer needs to succeed. I decided to join a Creative Writing college in Oxford. My tutor was a published author and script writer. My first book, which was self published became the course work for the novel. Derek, my tutor became friends and I sent him an overview “In the World’s Shadows” which he thought would make a good story. It was his help and guidance over the five years it took me to write the book which made me realize how important it was to make the style compelling to the reader and stand out amongst the millions of books published each year.
I was inspired to share my unique experience spanning over 50 years from boyhood to adulthood with ordinary people, who could relate to similar episodes in their lives. I was convinced the book would appeal to a cross section of readers who had experienced suffering, bereavement, joy and love. Perhaps they had overcome their own conflicts with a spiritual belief, leading them from despair into a new life full of hope and acceptance of human frailty. As one reviewer said:
“It is an easy read, with writing that creates vivid pictures of the various places and people depicted.”
Who would you recommend your book to?
As another reviewer said:- “This is truly a story about the journey, life and loves of one human soul in search of lasting peace and happiness, which he eventually finds.” The target market is ‘ordinary people’ who lived through extraordinary times, such as World War II or the apartheid era in South Africa, or who have experience of personal loss and its devastating effect. But I hope that a wide range of people will enjoy the cinematic breadth of the story.
What advice can you give to young writers?
As mentioned I started writing late in life and wish now I had learnt to write at an early age. My advice to any young writer would be to join a writing school, and learn how to get your work published. You should learn to write regularly, be prepared to work very hard, write what you know and care about, watch movies and plays and make notes on the characters, be prepared to edit and revise constantly, and don’t be put off by having to re-write a manuscript.
What are you working on or writing next?
My next book is about a family in modern times who face similar dilemmas and tragedies to characters “In the World’s Shadows”. The book will be based on a true story and I feel certain readers will find it a story full of warmth, suffering, humour, happiness, pathos, love, joy and peace.
Find your copy of In the World’s End on Amazon.