We’re delighted to be on the Authoright tour today sharing an extract for Imprisoned by Love by C S Brahams as well as Laura’s thoughts.
Imprisoned by Love by C S Brahams is available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
Deputy head teacher, Sophie Boswell, is back from Croatia and set to tackle the new academic year at her independent school in London. As the term unfolds, Sophie’s husband Michael’s increasingly erratic behaviour begins to take its toll on her. Everything is in a state of flux. Sophie’s world is no longer safe. How will she cope with Michael’s confusion and violence at home while maintaining authority and dignity at work?
Imprisoned by Love is a compelling story about living with dementia. The author’s debut novel provides an arresting insight into the uncomfortable realities of balancing love and duty. With her many years in the teaching profession, C.S. Brahams is all too aware of the problems teachers face keeping up appearances in the classroom whilst compartmentalising their personal struggles. In the past, the author was deeply affected by a significant trauma which left her emotionally labile; it was this strain of maintaining authority on the surface whilst drowning beneath it that made her want to explore someone’s mental health whilst dealing with a personal crisis at home.
It is extraordinary how quickly a summer holiday can pass without incident or argument. It has been blissful. Nine days in Croatia, basking in the intense heat, cooling ourselves off in the tranquil water. Michael, the twins and I, are celebrating our last summer together before they go off on their gap year to Australia and we return to work effectively as dinkys: double income no kids yet. Except that we have kids. Expensive ones. We made rash promises when they started the Upper Sixth: straight A grades and you can have £1000 each. Straight A* and you can have £2000 each. We underestimated our own children. But we are so proud of them. Neither Olivia nor Eddie ever imagined doing this well. They have deferred their entry to Exeter and Warwick universities and are now considering Oxbridge. I hope this is all that they have to worry about. I don’t know whether to encourage or discourage this. It’s easier to advise other people’s children.
Eddie is the spitting image of his dad, only thinner. He is well over six foot now; quite muscular and tans effortlessly. Michael, who was much the same when I met him at Durham University, is still an attractive man. He is forty-nine and hasn’t let himself go, too much. His dark hair and blue eyes have been passed onto our son. I’m disappointed that he has given up on his contact lenses: too much of a faff, apparently. He wore them for twenty years, but now he struggles to use them. I only wear sunglasses. But I know that as I approach fifty, things are going to change.
We are treating the twins, and ourselves, to a last minute, all-inclusive stay at The Sun Gardens Hotel, Dubrovnik. Technically, it’s not located in the old city; it is too hot and too crowded there, so we are relieved to be on the coast. Neither Michael nor I like crowds whilst we’re on holiday; we have enough of London’s urban buzz to contend with on a day-today basis. It’s idyllic here. The twins have never stayed in a fivestar hotel before and I suspect it will be many years until any of us do so again. It is a far cry from our spontaneous forms of travel. I have spent so much time in the water, racing the twins and losing, that I am wrinkled; if this is a taste of what’s to come, I don’t know if I want to be that old. It’s Michael’s turn now. He’s an outstanding swimmer. If anyone were in difficulty in the water, he would be the person who could save you. Despite working ludicrous hours, he has always been there for both our children, never favouring one over the other. I watch him now, peering over my Kindle, and smile as he pretends to be a shark, just as he did when they were five. He is less inhibited than I am. I find it endearing.
In the evening, we sit in a beautiful little restaurant, overlooking the sea, clinking our glasses with our grown-up children. Olivia looks like I used to: petite with long, straight fair hair and green eyes. She has little freckles that are allowed to dance on her pretty little face whilst we’re on holiday; at home, they’re hidden beneath a thin layer of face powder. I take my mobile out and ask the waiter to capture our happy, perfect family. I feel blessed. I know I am. I instantly send it via WhatsApp to our “immediate family group” which includes all of us. Everyone laughs and mocks me for being efficient on holiday as well as at work. I can’t really help it. I’m enjoying the freedom Croatia has given us. We aren’t rushing in the mornings or berating each other for the most trivial things. We are happy. And it’s lovely. It’s all a bit too good to be true. I pinch myself. I’m lucky to have Michael in my life. Lucky to have my twins. Sometimes we need a little unhappiness to know when we are happy.
It is slightly different when we are at home in London. Michael’s work is relentless. He toils away for long hours. He hasn’t slept well for years, particularly the last two, and I fear that he will have a heart attack unless he slows down. The twins and I work in six-week cycles; that’s schools for you. He doesn’t. I want him to work less. Slow down. Reduce his hours. He has been a little absent-minded lately; I put this down to exhaustion and stress. Unlike me, Michael spends hours in front of three screens, analysing data and liaising with high net-worth clients. I spend my day with adolescents. He’s an actuary and I’m a Senior Teacher; this means he earns more money than I do though I am a member of the Senior Management Team (SMT). I take a cursory look around the hotel complex, hoping that I don’t see one of my colleagues or pupils here.
Our nine days have nearly expired. I can feel the weight of the journey and my return to school, sitting on my shoulders like the proverbial albatross. I don’t like flying and I fear most forms of public transport. I’m dreading going home but I’m dreading the end of our holiday more. I know that my job will fill me with distractions – many good ones at that – but it won’t be the same without the twins. The house will feel empty. And Michael will be back at the office where only his colleagues and clients will benefit from his quiet charm and sharp intellect; it’s all spent by the time he comes home.
Michael can almost read my mind. He puts his large and caring hand over my shoulder to reassure me. He squeezes my shoulder to the point that it hurts a little; he’s unaware of his strength. Olivia and Eddie wander off to talk to other teenagers. They are confident and polite. I’m proud of the way we have brought them up. But they are still naïve. It is natural to worry about one’s children but I have an irrational fear that our perfect foursome will be shattered. I need to practise what I preach: cut the umbilical cord; let them fly into the distance. And the day before I return to my school, they will be flying to Australia for their well-earned gap year. I can’t quite get my head around this. Both of them.
I adored this sad tale of a woman and her husband nearing only 50 years and dealing with dementia. The main protagonist Sophie is intelligent, interesting and her character I found comes across as very realistic in her reaction to her husbands illness.
Sophie works in London as a deputy head in an Independent school. The author has shown the reality of working in the teaching profession extremely well and the need to keep professionalism and therefore hiding any personal struggles.
It also highlighted how we need a good support system to go through the trials of life. Sophie in this story relies on her retired parents to help with her new exhausting and sadly violent lifestyle.
I thought this book is great at explaining how illness effects more than just the person inflicted.
An emotional read with great characters.
Catherine Brahams read English, Russian Studies and Linguistics at Durham University where she spent much of her time acting, producing or directing plays. She qualified as a teacher of English (secondary) a year later and has spent over twenty years in the teaching profession. At the height of her profession, Catherine was the Vice Principal of a Sixth Form College in Kensington and a Head of Sixth Form in central London. She has also been a manager at both English Heritage and Bonhams Auctioneers, both of which gave her wonderful insight into a world outside of teaching. Catherine has been a School Inspector for some years now and is also a Governor at a girls’ school in London. She is married to Lawrence with whom she has a daughter called Alice. Twitter @CatherineBRAHA3