We caught up with author Anne Goodwin to discuss her Issue Fifteen short fiction piece, The Witch’s Funeral, a tense story of the newly bereaved Irene in the lead up to her husband’s funeral, which happens to be scheduled for the same day as Margaret Thatcher’s.
“There’s space on the seventeenth of course…” The man from the Co-op crossed one leg over the other knee, exposing a rib of puce-coloured sock. How unfortunate that the only lively thing about him should clash so lividly with the fireside rug. She knew she shouldn’t have let him take Arnold’s seat.
“The seventeenth then.”
His face stayed fixed in a masque of compassion. “You do realise that’s the day of the ceremony at St Paul’s? Not many round here would want their final send-off to coincide with Baroness Thatcher’s.”
I actually started writing this story shortly after Margaret Thatcher’s death and, most unusually for me, wrote a blog post about it.I was annoyed that the pomp around the funeral overlooked how some people had been dreadfully hurt by her policies, but I also thought the song as a form of protest rather puerile.
The death of Margaret Thatcher predictably split the country. Does that make her inclusion in the story a more attractive prospect to write? Does it make it harder to write?
I think the inclusion of Margaret Thatcher made this an easy story to write for my own entertainment, but harder to produce something suitable for publication, as readers will inevitably have their own strong associations to her which might colour their reading.
Whilst we’re right there with the protagonist in Irene, I felt for Barry too. In her assumed wisdom and with the backdrop of the death of a loved one, there’s something more tragic in the boy-done-good son in Barry. Was that intentional?
I’m glad you felt sympathy for Barry even though he doesn’t get to be particularly heroic in this story. He’s a product of his time. Irene was determined that his life should be easier than his father’s but, like the funeral director, his is a softer version of masculinity that she can’t respect. I suppose in this story I’m writing about changes, both positive and negative, in working class communities in general.
Finally, it’s a common theme, so why choose “loss”?
I wanted to write about bereavement. As a psychologist, I think it’s great that people are now so familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief but, of course, they’re not so clear-cut in practice. That drew me to creating a character who refused to do it by the book but, until the end, struggled to find her own way to grieve.