Writing Home: An Exploration of The Writing of Jack and Bet (A Novel) And A Consideration of What the Novel – As A Space and A Practice – Might Offer to Our Understanding of The Concept of Home, And What A Consideration of Home Might Offer to Our Understanding of The Novel.

Butler, Sarah (2021). Writing Home: An Exploration of The Writing of Jack and Bet (A Novel) And A Consideration of What the Novel – As A Space and A Practice – Might Offer to Our Understanding of The Concept of Home, And What A Consideration of Home Might Offer to Our Understanding of The Novel. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00013869

Abstract

This creative-critical thesis consists of a novel, Jack and Bet, and a supporting critical commentary. Jack and Bet tells the story of two octogenarians living in Elephant and Castle, South London, as the Heygate Estate (their former home) is demolished. The critical commentary brings together theories from literary criticism, geography, anthropology and urban studies to explore how the practice of writing and the space of the novel intersect with ideas of home.

Written in the third person, the novel switches between Jack, Bet, and a young Romanian student, Marinela. These voices interweave to tell the story of Jack and Bet's struggle to maintain their independence and stay in their own home as they age; Marinela's attempts to create a new home in a foreign city; and how the friendship between the three unearths long-buried secrets which jeopardise Jack and Bet's marriage and their relationship with their son.

Beginning with an overview of theories of home and the home-spaces of the novel, the commentary explores home as an active process and a physical site. It considers Jack and Bet, with additional analysis of novels by Ann Patchett and Anne Tyler, in relation to the verbs to leave, to stay, to return and to settle, alongside themes of loss, nostalgia and recuperation, and the idea of writing itself as a home.

Written at a time of gentrification and rising house prices, Jack and Bet contributes to a growing body of research about home, gentrification and how we inhabit cities. Published just before the first Covid-lockdown of 2020, it is also a pertinent exploration of home and the value of our older population. Together the novel and the commentary argue for a more expansive idea of domestic fiction, and a richer, more interdisciplinary approach to home and the novel.

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