When innocent beauty catches the eye of the darkest evil there is no escaping the horror of what will follow. Gracie is desperate to find solace in poetry, her escape, her Secret Key
Gracie lives alone with her mother and judging by the photos, at one point she must have been happy: a beautiful little girl with her golden locks framing an angelic face and, most of all, stunning green eyes, like her mother, filled with laughter. The neighbouring boy Billy, a few years older than Gracie, is her best friend. Ever. He is the dragon turning into a friendly Prince, she is his Princess. Or are all nice people dragons at heart and all dragons in want for love? Gracie ponders about the meaning of poems and whether they can touch your heart and lift you up, be a comfort in times of need. She is desperate for a way to escape her reality.
With a heavy heart, I opened Seas of Snow and started unfolding the pages, anxiously awaiting the horrors before me. I knew this would not be an easy read as the book’s info tells us about the “sinister pattern of behaviour” of uncle Joe, the brother of Gracie’s mother. Until she is five years old, little Gracie is blissfully ignorant of his existence and is a perfectly happy little girl with her mother, her “overall best friend” who wants to love her and be loved. Their house feels like a home and Gracie loves it when her mother lights up their home with her laughter. But when Joe (“calling him uncle would be a lie“) comes into their lives, everything changes. A dark presence enters the house that used to be a home, now only a place to live in fear, the menacing evil never far away. Although she has no idea of the horrors lying before her, Gracie is delicate and perceptive to the atmosphere around her – even if she does not understand its fullest extent.
Somehow, this helps her cope with the bullying, a fact she dares not tell her mother for fear she will not understand. Is it not tragic that Gracie’s mother rather assumes Gracie has done “a bad thing” than offer solace? When the arms that hold you are unable to provide safety, there is nowhere to turn. Except for Billy, Gracie’s boy next door and very best friend. Billy, like Gracie, loves to live in a world of his own creation with dragons and princesses and uplifting stories. He does not understand where Gracie’s panic and total fear of crows sterns from but, caring as he is, he always endeavours to lift Gracie’s spirits. We perceive the little boy and the grown-up man, Billy, in agony over what he never fully grasped but has seen the consequences of. Billy is totally loyal, even if he struggles with what his conscience tells him to do.
Meanwhile, we also are aware of him, the watcher who must be among the darkest evil of men, who takes pleasure in instilling fear and perfecting the scenarios of his sadistic games, the “big, black shadow hovering over her.. watching.” As much as Joe frightens Gracie, she is such a remarkable little creature that she can find ways of coping with his menacing presence in words, in poetry. Her teacher offers her perhaps the greatest gift by showing how to interpret poetry, how to uncover layer after layer of a poem like the petals of a rose unfolding their true beauty and exotic fragrance. The poems offer a way out for Gracie, who learns how to divulge the true meaning of the words that become her lifeline but will it be enough to shield her from harm? Will life not forget nor fail her?
So you must not be frightened
If a sadness rises up before you …
You must think that something is happening with you,
That life has not forgotten you
It will not let you fail.
– Rainer Maria Rilke –
I am at a loss for words to describe this literary work of fiction that shows us the wickedness of immorality against the pure beauty of innocence. When the person you rely on cannot shield you from the horrors you need to develop survival techniques and for Gracie, her escape from the harsh reality lies in words, in poetry. I loved how she almost tasted every word in her mouth and could not stop thinking about it until she had given it a meaning. So touching to read and I have loved it immensely despite the dark force, always in the background shimmering through. The rose and its symbolic meaning – showing Gracie how a poem is multi-layered and has many meanings .. beautiful. I am in awe for how Kerensa Jennings with masterly style shows us the delightfulness of innocent beauty observed by the darkest evil. I totally loved Billy – he is an endearing and wonderful person – he touched my heart. The way Gracie regards poems as a rose, to be divulged one layer at a time, is tragically reflected in Joe’s fear-installing watching of her for which we have no words. William Blake has in his poem ‘The Sick Rose.’
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy;
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
– William Blake –
It is not only the contrast between Gracie and Joe but also between Joe and his sister, Gracie’s mother. They are two sides of the coin, both growing up in the same family. If ever you question the influence and effects of nurture and nature, look at those two and you come to realise that nature is the driving force behind Joe’s malevolent actions and in my opinion, that means that nature is how you deal with what nurture brings upon you. Again we find the two sides here; those that bestow violence upon others and those that find an outlet to their inner demons in, for instance, art and poetry. The thoughts just kept hurtling through my mind as I read this engrossing psychological novel, an enigma in itself with its exquisitely beautiful descriptions of delicate creatures, crushed as a result of the devastating consequences of evil but also with harrowing insights into the darkness of man’s mind. The narration intersperses these distressing insights with a perception of the world through the eyes of the innocent, showing us that what we see is only one layer, one petal of the rose. Who are we to judge when we cannot comprehend someone else’s horror and their struggle with the demons in their life?
About Kerensa Jennings
Kerensa Jennings is a storyteller, strategist, writer, producer and professor. Kerensa’s TV work took her all over the world, covering everything from geo-politics to palaeontology, and her time as Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost coincided with the life-changing events of 9/11. The knowledge and experience she gained in psychology by qualifying and practising as an Executive Coach has only deepened her fascination with exploring the interplay between nature and nurture and with investigating whether evil is born or made – the question at the heart of Seas of Snow. As a scholar at Oxford, her lifelong passion for poetry took flight. Kerensa lives in West London and over the last few years has developed a career in digital enterprise.
IN HER OWN WORDS…
“I’ve been writing stories and poems ever since I was a little girl. Although it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing a book, I’m lucky enough to have had a long career in the media as a TV producer, writing television programmes. Most of the time viewers would have had no idea who I was, but my words have informed, educated and entertained millions over the years. I produced, directed, wrote for and worked with some of the most amazing people including Nelson Mandela, Sir David Frost (I was Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost), Sir David Attenborough, Fiona Bruce, Sian Williams, James Nesbitt, George Alagiah and Rory Bremner. I moved away from programme making to strategy and became the BBC’s Head of Strategic Delivery where I designed and delivered strategies for the Corporation, including a significant digital strategy (BBC Make it Digital). I now run The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.
I’ve always used literature, and poetry in particular, for solace and escape. I happen to think literature is probably the best self-help on the planet! You can fly into other worlds and find ways through writing to make sense of life. SEAS of SNOW draws together some of my passions and fascinations in life. While I was at university, I studied the psychoanalysis of fairy tales and got very interested in archetypes and the way characters and stories of good and evil are portrayed.
While leading the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, I had the opportunity to see first-hand a lot of evidence about the mind and motives of a psychopath. So in SEAS of SNOW, the protagonist Gracie uses poetry and playtime to escape the traumas and abuses of her life; the antagonist, her Uncle Joe, is a bad man, a psychopath; and there is a subtext of fairy tale underlying the page-turning scenario which hopefully makes you want to read while half-covering your eyes.”
|Publisher||Unbound (9 Feb. 2017)|
|eBook||1062 KB (16 March 2017)|