Family Affair: Divorce is like death

When Nicola Davies's husband left her and their two children for a younger woman, it was a bolt from the blue. Under the pseudonym Stevie Morgan, she wrote a diary about her divorce, `Beloved and Bonk', for `The Independent'. Now she has written a novel based on her experience. Nicola, 40, lives in the West country. Mary Shooter, 52, is her only sister: a teacher with four grown-up children, she lives in Wales.

Nicola

About two weeks after my husband told me he was leaving, in May 1997, I wrote a couple of pieces to make myself feel better, make myself laugh, and sent them to a one or two friends to make up for having cried all over them non-stop. They really liked them, so I wrote more and sent them off to The Independent. Publishing the columns was a way of communicating with my now ex-husband - we weren't speaking at all. I wanted him to see I was upset, but that I could be funny. I thought it was a way of getting him back. Crazy. He was very, very angry.

Then I had a letter from a publisher who'd seen the diary, asking if I'd thought of writing a comic novel. I had always wanted to write fiction - and I had no other way of making a living. Divorce is taken so lightly, as if it was like having your adenoids out, but all the women and men I spoke to were knocked for six by theirs. Two years later, and in a new relationship, I still have days where I can't do anything but cry. What I found out about women who had been dumped in similar circumstances horrified me.

Martin, the husband character in my novel is very, very horrible; my ex isn't. But Martin is not that important: he's the catalyst, the knife that cuts things into a different shape, so he's a cartoon combination. My ex has read bits of the book and doesn't accept it is fiction, but I can't do anything about that. I showed the columns to my children, now 10 and 11, and they were very upset and angry at first, but that was because their father was angry. Once we had talked it through, they could see the funny side and they knew I wasn't trying to be horrible. They could see it was making me feel better. Now they are really proud of me.

Very little is written about children going through awful things, and although the events are fictional in the novel, the feelings are very real and show that the children were terribly upset. I don't see emotions as things that you have to hide away.

My sister Mary was just what you wanted when your husband leaves - completely partisan, totally and completely on my side. Mary and I turn to each other. She is older than I, so her role can be quite maternal. She wasn't as surprised as I was when my husband left: she did feel he would be very angry when the columns came out. I think she thought they would backfire on me and the kids. But she's never reproached me for anything.

I swear this wasn't about revenge. I could have been far more horrible. People may call me a total cow for writing it. Well, I'm not, but I have to survive. Writing about it all has made me much more confident. I'd presented children's TV programmes but I never felt I'd been successful, unlike my ex. The column and novel have been terrifically exciting. I'll never regret writing about my divorce: this book saved me, otherwise I'd have had to sell my house and move the kids to where they didn't want to live. But a divorce is like death, your heart stays broken, but you accept the pain. We'll never be a real family again. I'm happy, but in a different way - I have hope, but not faith.

Mary

Our mother got cancer when Nick was two and a half and, as I am 12 years older, I looked after her a lot, so I was never quite sure if I was her mother or sister. I hadn't felt happy for a while about her marriage. I felt her husband, who worked away from home, was an absent father and didn't value their relationship. I didn't expect them to split, but I did feel a sense of relief, mixed with awful pain.

She started sending me the pieces she'd written, and I felt pleased as it meant she was coping, although she was very sad and unhappy. They gave her courage and pep and made her laugh. I felt if publishing them made her feel better, she should do it. The humour came across to me very strongly, but perhaps I tried to shut out the distress. I read the book in one day because, although it is funny, it was so painful I wanted it to be over.

I never worried about the effect on her husband - I'm more vindictive than she is. She was so loving about him just after the split - it was all her fault and so on - but I wanted her to be angry. I thought writing about it'd help. She seemed so happy when she married him, and he seemed so lovely.

I was worried that the children might read about it and be upset. I avoided talking to them about it as I'm not sure how to deal with it. But their anger seems to have dissipated - the columns and the book have been like lancing a boil for all of them.

I see very few differences between Nick and Jess, the narrator in the novel. She's got herself down to a tee. She can be the victim, but she can also be strong and independent.

Writing about it all has made her so much more confident, as if she's gone through the test of fire and come out stronger. Now I feel more like her sister than her mother.

Interviews by Hilly Janes

`Delphinium Blues' by Stevie Morgan is published by Flame at pounds 10

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'