Hey friends! Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Invisible Tightrope by Robert Haywood and I am bringing you a guest post. Enjoy!
The Invisible Tightrope by Robert Haywood
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by: Clink Street Publishing
Release date: 11/05/2021
Where to find: Amazon
Summary: Leaving the comfortable tranquility of life in a Nottinghamshire village, academically gifted Christian Henderson, the only child of high-achieving parents goes to university to study philosophy.
Intoxicated by the joys of learning and wrestling with complex ideas, he believes he will progress to a career in academic research.
Persuaded by a female student on his course to undertake some charitable work in Ghana during the summer holiday to help build a school, the experience of living in a rural community and interacting with its people challenges his values and beliefs, disrupts his sense of self and turns the course of his life in a completely different direction.
The Top 5 things about my main protagonist
- His upbringing;
Christian Henderson is academically gifted and the only son of high-achieving, articulate and well-educated parents. He has set his sights on reading philosophy at university, gravitating to academic research. By most people’s standards, ‘he has it made’ enjoying a high-quality lifestyle, including expensive holidays with his parents, owning a car, having a close circle of good friends, and a beautiful girlfriend. His childless Aunt and Uncle live in the same village in rural North Nottinghamshire and ‘spoil him rotten’. The Hendersons are the epitome of middle-class England, where supporting village fetes and attending the village church are expected and desired. Christian is ego divested, good-hearted, reflective and kind, knowing he is fortunate. He has adopted the term ‘existential gratitude’ from the vicar and family friend, Hugh Bottesford, as it hits the nail on the head about how he feels about his privileged life.
- His relationship with his parents;
Julia, his mother, is assertive, believes she knows better than most and likes to get her way. She loves her son dearly and has been a fabulous mother and mentor for him. Cliff, his father, is a corporate HR director who is emotionally intelligent, has a charming way with people, acknowledges his wife is challenging to live with but knows how to make it work. Christian and his father have a shared understanding of managing their relationship with Julia, who claims the men often gang up on her. Cliff and Christian enjoy much banter at Julia’s expense.
- His relationship with women;
Christian’s relationship with four women forms the core of the novel. When his childhood sweetheart, Pippa Bottesford, goes to university a year before him, she falls in love with a tutor and dumps him. He is heartbroken and descends into a delusional state about her return to him.
The delusional state speaks to him throughout a holiday romance with a French girl he finds very attractive and good fun.
Christian tries to ‘bounce back’ with Nancy, a pretty and savvy barmaid who works in the village pub whose actions saved him from life-changing brain damage after three youths attacked him on the road outside. Nancy was aware of Christian’s delusional state, tried to help him through it but cooled their relationship when he went to university. Nancy doesn’t want to compete with Pippa’s ghost.
At university, Christian meets Rebecca on his course. For her, it was love at first sight, and she aches for him, but Christian’s delusion meant he kept her at arm’s length as a friend. During their first year at university, Rebecca persuades him to go on a Christian Mission project to Ghana during the summer recess to help build a primary school in a rural village. She hopes that the shared experience and spending time together will change Christian’s attitude towards her.
A mysterious female, in different guises, engages with Christian three times in the novel. During their first encounter, she makes a prophecy about him finding love and a path to light. During their second encounter, she witnesses the release of Pippa’s spirit from him in a funeral pyre. Finally, on the third, she warns of a test he is going to face.
- When Christian comes face to face with people who have few resources but warm hearts;
The experience of living in a rural village in the Akuapen Hills in Ghana transforms Christian. He experiences what it means to live with few resources and how village people help each other out, making life tolerable and meaningful. He finds humour, faith, generosity and kindness in their most authentic clothing. The village children touch his heart the most, and from his experience of them, he decides what he wants to do with the rest of his life – the pivot point is:
‘I want to be known for what I do, not what I know.’
- Christian walks on the Invisible Tightrope
Already climbing the ladder, Rebecca’s actions and the mysterious female encourage him to climb higher, but it is a meeting with a ‘wise man’ in the village that finally gets him to step out on the tightrope. While Christian cannot see the other end of the tightrope, he is certain of its anchor point.
I was raised on a social housing estate in the 1950/60s by supportive and hard-working parents. Having been shown the basics of reading phonetically, I took control and became a prodigious reader. My imagination was propelled into new worlds by classic children’s stories such as Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. I recall that after ‘lights out’ at bedtime, I read by torchlight under my bedsheets until sleep took over or the batteries died.
Having gained entry into a local grammar school, I decided I wanted to become a teacher. Ambition realised, I gravitated into educational research. My first significant piece of writing was my Masters Thesis – produced on a mechanical typewriter with an ink ribbon: we have it easy these days.
The first 20 years of my working life were spent in secondary schools as a science teacher, progressing towards school leadership. While a science teacher, educational publishers commissioned me to write materials to promote new teaching methods and assessing pupils. I ceased after seventeen titles.
In 1998 I ‘jumped ship’ from a well-paid school leadership role to set up my training and consultancy business. I aimed to support organisations in the Midlands to become more successful by investing in their people’s learning and development. I still operate in this line of work and write commercial products for businesses and schools.
I regard my fiction reading and writing as a treat in counterbalancing the demands of running my own business. My favourite authors are Hermann Hesse, Julian Barnes and Donna Leon. By contrast, I like to read philosophy and theology – I’m currently wading my way through the entire works of Soren Kierkegaard, regarded by academics as the founder of ‘existentialism’.
My favourite places to read are on sunbeds (blissful), train journeys, and a pile of novels sit next to my bed – no torchlight required now.
I have come to fiction writing late in life, by accident, not design. I admit to having a great deal to learn about the craft and subscribe to Jericho Writers. I have also joined the Fosseway Writers Group, based in Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire. These have been a wise investment.
I have learnt to carry a small notepad with me on my travels and while driving to client meetings as one never knows when inspiration will strike or you might pick up a gem of an idea from a radio programme.
I live in a village in North Nottinghamshire with my wife, Joanne and Rufus, our cockapoo, whose boundless energy and sheer enthusiasm for life inspire me.