I’m very pleased to welcome Jennie Ensor to the blog today. The Girl in his Eyes is her second novel, and it’s a story with a difference. A few weeks ago, I talked to Jennie – who as you’ll see is a very brave lady – about the book.
Describe your book in three sentences:
Laura was abused by her father when she was a child and for years was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim… Laura realises she must find the courage to stand up to her father, a paedophile hidden within a seemingly ordinary suburban family.
What gave you the original idea for this book?
The novel draws on my childhood and a particular incident many years later. For several years when I was growing up my father behaved abusively towards me. As a child I felt unable to tell anyone, not even my mother. I felt compelled to write TGIHE without really understanding why. With hindsight, I think I wanted to make sense of what had happened to me: why my father acted as he did and got away with it, why my mother didn’t guess and why as a child I couldn’t say anything. The novel’s premise – What would happen if a young woman abused in childhood finds out that her abuser, her father, might be tempted to prey on someone else? – came to me when I heard about an incident with my late father. Supposedly, some years after I’d left home, a girl visited my father and ran off in a state of distress, possibly shocked to find the man she was communicating with was much older than she’d imagined. This struck me; I wondered what I would have done years earlier if I’d suspected my father had been abusing someone else. (I don’t know if he actually had been.)
Where is the book set?
In London (mainly Wimbledon and West Kensington), in 2011 (towards the end of the last recession).
Tell us a little about the characters.
Laura is a troubled young woman of 22, deeply impacted by the abusive behaviour of her father. She feels isolated from her family and has only one real friend. Despite success at uni, her recent life has been marked by a string of dead-end jobs and failed relationships.
Suzanne is a 50ish mother of two (Laura and Daniel), married to Paul for 25 years. She’s a freelance proof-reader. Her life has been blighted by the early deaths of her parents and brother. For years she found Paul to be an anchor and lacked the confidence to follow her own path in life – but something inside her is awakening.
Paul, Laura’s father, is in his early 50s, a successful sales manager at a technology company but is facing job insecurity and the impact of the recession. He has dark secrets: a penchant for watching underage girls engaging in sex on the internet – and his abusive treatment of Laura when she was a child. Highly manipulative, charming and likeable on the surface, he’s kept his secret life hidden from his wife. Now, he tells himself that his ‘overstepping the mark’ with Laura must never happen again, with another girl…
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Apart from the deep satisfaction of actually writing, going off into my own world, musing on how to tell the story at hand, I love the freedom to be at my desk or out walking mulling over plots – the choice is mine, there’s no office I have to commute to, I could in theory work anywhere. My husband has an 18th century house in the Pyrenees, and I find being there is often inspiring. I wrote a draft of my debut novel under the sloping roof of one of the bedrooms, looking out onto the village church and the mountains, listening to bells clanging every half hour. The other thing I value is the friendship and support of other writers, online and off. It’s a comfort when things aren’t going so well or you need to vent about something, and it’s great to share the occasional good news!
And the worst?
There are days I want to be in an office chatting about the latest TV drama and looking forward to a few after work drinks on a Friday evening… There are always so many things to do as a writer apart from writing (especially that big time-sucker, social media) that sometimes I find it hard to give myself the time to relax and enjoy life.
What are your writing plans for the future?
My next novel is in the final stages of editing. It’s another family drama I’d say, but is totally different to TGIHE – a darkly humorous story of love, family, secrets and obsession. I took lots of risks with this novel too, going off into a slightly surreal, very playful space in my head. I wrote it partly to cheer myself up – there’s a vein of wickedly dark humour running through it. I’ve been plotting a fourth novel which I’m keen to start working on, a psychological suspense novel with paranormal elements.
Here’s the blurb for The Girl in his Eyes. I’ve read it, and it’s an amazing book, one I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…
Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.
Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.
Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?
A Londoner with Irish heritage, Jennie Ensor began her writing career as a journalist, obtaining a Masters in Journalism (winning two student awards) and covering topics from forced marriages to mining accidents. She isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues in her novels, either – Islamic terrorism, Russian gangsters and war crimes in her debut Blind Side (Unbound, 2016); child abuse and sexual exploitation in her latest book The Girl in his Eyes, a dark psychological drama published by Bloodhound Books, 18. September 2018.
Jennie Ensor’s short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition; her poetry has appeared in many publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. In her spare time she cycles, sings in a chamber choir and dreams of setting off on a long trip with her Kindle.