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
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
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.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor