Book Marks: Debbie Howells

Posted on 22nd July 2015 by Debbie Howells
Debbie Howells recalls Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
We all have particular moments in books that we never quite forget. They can be specific characters or a plot point that you never saw coming. Sometimes it can even be a single line that you have to stop reading and take a second or two to fully appreciate.

Everybody always talks about the rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. We want to know your literary equivalent and why it has stayed with you. They won't necessarily happen in your favourite book, some of them might even be in books you couldn't convince yourself to finish. Whichever book they're in, we want to celebrate them.

Today, Debbie Howells, author of The Bones of You, looks at how a brief passage in Rosamund Lupton's Afterwards manages to perfectly capture the strength of maternal love.


The next day your sister sent me a bouquet of roses with gypsophila, known as ‘baby’s breath’, sprays of pretty white flowers. But a newborn baby’s breath is finer than a single parachute from a blown dandelion clock.

You told me once that when you lose consciousness the last of the senses to go is hearing.

In the darkness I thought I heard Jenny take a dandelion-clock breath.

Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton, is a story that’s stayed with me. It’s essentially about a crime, but much more, about people, families, love, life, death. So much so, that every time I read it, I take away something different.

This scene quite early in the book mesmerised me. Not just the imagery and use of language, but the reference to newborn life; the strength of maternal love; her child a mother’s last and only thought before she’s pitched into unconsciousness. All in just a few powerful sentences. 

It’s an image that’s stayed with me, one that crystallises the fragility – and miracle – of life. It’s true to say there are other passages in this book that are memorable, but reading those words I was truly drawn into the story, imagining if it were my own family, forgetting completely about everything else.

For me, that’s a measure of how good a story is. How completely it draws you in and occupies your mind, lingering even after the last page has been turned, then pulling you back again, later, to read and re-read the most thought-provoking passages.

And in Afterwards, there’s that contrast between the story itself - which is about a terrible crime – and the way in which the author writes. It’s how I wanted to write The Bones of You, using language to bring an element of beauty into an otherwise dark story...


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