While I'm more readily known for working with SFF, I'm also a huge fan of upmarket women's fiction: Margaret Atwood, Jessie Burton, Kate Morton, Sarah Waters, Salley Vickers, Sarah Dunant and Maggie O'Farrell to name but a few. And I've been on the lookout for an author writing in this area since setting up. But nothing quite fit the bill . . . until recently. I got submitted a novel and within 24 hours had requested the full script. And then tore through that in a couple of sittings over the weekend, totally gripped. I loved the voice, the characters, the emotion and felt a genuine resonance with the novel which is very hard to achieve. I couldn't believe it was a debut, so accomplished was the writing. I was totally thrilled when Victoria Bird agreed to join the list.
Unsteady Souls is a brilliant work of fiction exploring the act of infidelity and the impact it has on those involved. Unwavering, direct and deeply emotionally moving, the novel explores the subject through the perspectives of the three main characters: the lover, the adulterer and the betrayed.
What happens when the person you love the most, betrays you?
When leukaemia takes his best friend at thirty-five, Jack is left reeling. Tom was his connection to the past, to his younger self. Now with his marriage in a rut and his son’s behaviour pushing the family to breaking-point, he feels adrift with no one to anchor him to who he was - and wants to be.
Struggling in her marriage to a distant husband, battling to get a diagnosis for her son, and having no time to concentrate on her music, Annie is barely holding things together. As a wife and mother, she accepted there would be sacrifices but not a total loss of self-identity. Feeling as though her own needs and desires have been overwhelmed, she reaches out for someone to listen.
Helen has everything she wants – youth, freedom and success as an international photographer exploring the world through the lens of her camera. But one thing has evaded her: love. And once she thinks she’s found it, she’ll do anything to make sure she keeps it. No matter what the cost to anyone else.
Unsteady Souls is an unflinching triptych of betrayal, told from all three sides of the love triangle. It explores our complex attitudes to infidelity and the toll it takes on those we care about the most.
I asked Victoria why she'd written about such a subject.
I love reading and writing stories that feel real - as though they just might happen to the people next door. I wanted to tackle the theme of infidelity in particular, because of our unique social and personal relationship to the topic.
Infidelity wears an everyday mask: the peccadillo of a celebrity that makes front-page news or the subject of nudge-nudge-wink-wink humour. But in our private lives and our relationships, betrayal is raw and brutal, with the power to shake our foundations and our self-belief. It speaks to the trust we place in those closest to us, and the vulnerability that that trust engenders. It offers uncomfortable truths about the ways we fall in and out of love, and how that love can be bound up in our sense of self and fear of our own mortality.
I wanted to tell this story of infidelity from all three sides to explore how we justify our motives, and how each of the relationships in the novel refracts in different ways for the three characters.
The title is taken from the Bible – the idea that adultery entices 'unsteady souls'. The novel explores this premise: that we glimpse a reflection of ourselves in the water, but that the pursuit of immortality – and the desire to remain in limerence – can ultimately prove self-destructive.
About the Author: Born and raised in Surrey, Victoria studied English at the University of Cambridge. After four years, she found herself unable to leave the city behind and took a job in a local family firm. Her work has included blogging, technical writing, website development and statistical research, but fiction remains her one true love.
An incorrigible people-watcher, she is often to be found in a coffee shop, sipping chai and scribbling notes.
Victoria lives in Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Unsteady Souls is her debut novel.