Volcano and white bird, Iceland
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, PD.384-1995
Given by the artist in 1995 in memory of his son, Paul
... AS SEEN BY MICHELLE SPRING
Where do novels come from? My novel In the Midnight Hour is not atypical insofar as it emerged from the fusion of several different elements. A place – or rather, a seascape - triggered the writing; an incident, an atmosphere, and a question helped to shape the story. The place in question was a range of cliffs on the north Norfolk coast where I stood watching for hours as the North Sea slammed against a stony shore. Caught up, I felt compelled to draft a scene in which a celebrated Arctic explorer, the character Jack Cable, braces on identical cliffs against a storm that is shouldering its way towards him. Jack whispers a tale about the Faraway to his son Timmy, who – as if in premonition of what is to come – listens in troubled silence. This scene became the Prologue to my novel In the Midnight Hour. The same coastal prospect generated the moods that dominated the novel: a cool, bright, elegiac mood, glittering and detached; a humility in the face of the elements and of fate; a powerful atmosphere of mourning and loss. The incident on which the story turned was the disappearance of four-year-old Timmy while in his father’s care. The question that underpinned the novel: how does a father, how does a family, endure such a loss? Thus from a place, an incident, a mood, and a question emerged In the Midnight Hour, a novel that enabled me to reflect on guilt, on sorrow and regret, and on the possibility of coming to terms with a painful past.
Volcano and white bird, Iceland casts me right back to the imaginative place in which In the Midnight Hour was conceived. Grant’s paintings guide the gaze staunchly to the North; Jack Cable and his little boy might have been standing on the edge of those canvasses contemplating their own oncoming storm. Grant has constructed a glacial world – seascape and landscape of monumental proportions - that lifts a viewer out of herself or himself and into a vast and sombre universe. This is an implacable terrain, on a scale beside which human achievements and human concerns pale in significance.
And yet, importantly, Volcano and white bird, Iceland is a far from pessimistic creation. By some marvellous alchemy in which subject and medium, vision and skill, all play a part, Grant makes a series of images that are hopeful as well as humbling. His paintings speak not only of a natural and numinous grandeur but also of a compassionate appreciation of human hopes and frailties.
Michelle Spring (b. 1947)
Born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1947, Michelle Spring spent her childhood on Vancouver Island, and most of her adult life in Cambridge, England. Her first career was as an academic. A specialist in gender, Spring was Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Social & Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Sociology at what is now Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Under the name of Michelle Stanworth she authored several academic books and articles.
In the 1990s, Spring and her family were stalked by a student who threatened their lives; when finally, after eighteen months, the siege was lifted, writing fiction seemed the only way to exorcise the ghosts of fear. She has been a full-time writer since 1997. Her six crime novels, beginning with Every Breath You Take, have been translated into many languages, including French and German, and shortlisted for international awards. In the Midnight Hour (2001), was awarded the Arthur Ellis Prize by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best Novel of the Year.
Spring currently holds a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at Newnham College, Cambridge and is on the Executive Committee of the Crime Writers’ Association. She is in receipt of a grant from Arts Council England, East for the preparation of her seventh novel, Sympathy for the Devil. She is also a member of The Unusual Suspects, a group of award-winning crime novelists who write and talk on everything from anaesthesiology to zealotry. An occasional contributor to The Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and other newspapers, Spring has also appeared on television and radio, including Woman's Hour and BBC4's Battle of the Books.
Michelle Spring lives and works in Cambridge.
To read from Michelle Spring’s novel Nights in White Satin, frequently refering to the Fitzwilliam Museum, click here.
A. Bilton, K. Bonnett, P. Jones, T. Lawson, D. Skinner, M. Stanworth and A. Webster, Introductory Sociology, Macmillan, 1981; 4th edition 2002
M. Stanworth, Gender and Schooling: Study of Sexual Divisions in the Classroom, Hutchinson, 1983
M. Stanworth and J. Siltanen, (eds.) Women and the Public Sphere: A Critique of Sociology and Politics, Harper Collins, 1984
M. Stanworth (ed.), Reproductive Technologies: Gender, Motherhood and Medicine, Polity Press, 1987
M. Spring, Every Breath You Take, Orion, 1994
M. Spring, Running for Shelter, Orion, 1995
M. Spring, Standing in the Shadows, Orion, 1998
M. Spring, Nights in White Satin, Orion, 1999
M. Spring, In the Midnight Hour, Orion, 2001
M. Spring, The Night Lawyer, Ballantine Books, 2006