What inspired me to write the series, Still Life with Memories?
Natasha, the renowned pianist suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's in my book Apart from Love (volume I and II of the series, woven together) kept coming back to haunt me. Her character was not an easy one to develop. The primary challenge is that she has no voice. She is utterly silent, which makes her son Ben hope—at first—that she can be reached, that he can 'save' her.
“There is no way to tell if she has heard me. Her gaze is fixed, as steadily as before, on the same small pane of glass, through which the sun is blazing; which makes it hard to figure out what she sees out there.
I push forward, aiming to view it, somehow, from her angle, which at first, is too hard to imagine:
In my mind I try, I see a map, the entire map of her travels around the world. A whole history. It has been folded over and again, collapsed like a thin tissue, into a square; which is suspended there—right in front of her—a tiny, obscure dot on that window.
And inside that dot, the path of her journey crisscrosses itself in intricate patterns, stacked in so many papery layers. And the names of the places, in which she performed back then, in the past—London, Paris, Jerusalem, San Petersburg, New York, Tokyo—have become scrambled, illegible even, because by now, she can no longer look past that thing, that dot. She cannot see out of herself.
“Once I find my way back, my confusion will dissipate, somehow. I will sit down in front of my instrument, raise my hand, and let it hover, touching-not-touching the black and white keys. In turn they will start their dance, rising and sinking under my fingers. Music will come back, as it always does, flowing through my flesh, making my skin tingle. It will reverberate not only through my body but also through the air, glancing off every surface, making walls vanish, allowing my mind to soar.
Then I will stop asking myself, Where am I, because the answer will present itself at once. This is home. This, my bench. The dent in its leather cushion has my shape. Here I am, at times turbulent, at times serene. I am ready to play. I am music.”
This novel starts out at 1970, when she starts to succumb to her illness, and goes a generation back, to 1941, the time that she and Lenny first fell in love. This is the story of their love.
And the next in the series, my WWII Romantic Suspense novel Dancing with Air, shows her at her peak, back in the months leading to D-Day:
Then—just over the plaintive bleating of the sheep and the chaotic blasts rocking the mine—came a different sound. I listened to it in disbelief. It was the most wonderful sound in the entire world: a hum, the low, familiar hum of my Harley.
There it was, a silhouette of the beast, with Natasha astride on top of it, hair unfurling in the wind.
I wanted to tell her how I admired her courage, the risk she took, riding it here all by herself, without my guidance, to get here. I wanted to tell her she should have stayed away. But by now I knew that for me, she would dare take any chance, come what may.
“Oh Lenny,” she said. “You look... I have no words for it.”
Overcome with sudden joy I staggered towards her.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s go.”
In confusion I asked, “Where to?”
And Natasha said, “Anywhere, my love. Anywhere but here.”