Novel set mainly in WW2 Auschwitz/Birkenau
Talking Location With author Neil Beardmore – South Goa
5th March 2017
#TalkingLocationWith... author Neil Beardmore, South Goa
To think Indian dance begins and ends with Bollywood would be a big mistake! The first image of an Indian Dancer of around thirteen was found at the Indus Valley Civilisation site of Mohenjo-Daro. A small bronze figure she stands with one hand on her hip and her head back in a pose of challenge and attitude – so even as far back as around 5000 years ago a young Indian woman was portrayed as feisty and in control of her destiny. Dance appears all the way through the history of India, including of course the image of Siva dancing through a circle of flames as he commands the death and rebirth of worlds. It filters down through Devadasi courtesans who were highly educated women skilled in dance and other arts so they could entertain their clients on an equal level.
So dance was something that drew me in quickly when developing Lemon Seas: Lalima, a thirteen year old dancing on the beach keeps alive that tradition in her dream of one day being a classical dancer. But this is a world where Siva commands darkness and light, and girls are going missing. Rich, the protagonist, at first sceptical, agrees to teach her English after she helps him with an injured foot, and he sees in her the daughter he has left behind in England. Inevitably he is led into a web of intrigue in which shadowy figures like Lakshya the police chief are involved, and where women – both European and Indian – emerge as characters of inner strength and leadership, even under duress. And I’m pleased to say some of my recent readers have assured me of this last point!
Lemon Seas is set against the tropical backdrop of South Goa, my fictional seaside town of Bagolem being a combination of several places around the delightful resort of Palolem. Set in a crescent bay with palm trees leaning onto the beach, although increasingly commercialised, Palolem still holds its own as one of the top beaches in the world. Having spent long periods of time here, I’ve got to know several contacts who have offered insights into life in Goa, along with details about police uniforms, clothing, funeral ceremonies and so on. All this I backed up with research at the British Library, a place I thoroughly recommend (one feels like one is entering a holy place, a temple, and when I go there it makes me feel like I’m a real writer!) where you tread in the footsteps of the great, like Thomas Hardy who regularly travelled up from Max Gate to research.
It’s been a lengthy process of draft and re-draft over several years to get Lemon Seas to where it is, and I can only hope that that reveals the dedication which has gone into shaping it as an authentic, pacey but enjoyable read, and one which weaves through an exciting backdrop; I hope it shows also the passion I feel for the country and the people. Several readers have told me they couldn’t put it down – words that make a writer’s heart glow!
Make your trip to South Goa an enjoyable one by eating at the Dropadi restaurant in Palolem, a classy place with food of a very high quality, and my friend Pravin owns the Blue Planet restaurant for veggies like me, and vegans, and runs an eco friendly guest house of finely built chalets (where yoga classes are hosted) near to Agonda. The Palolem Beach Resort is a great place to stay right on the beach, with a variety of rooms, some basic, others with air con etc. You will find friendly faces everywhere, including Rupesh who runs a little terrace of old fishermen’s chalets to let – all very comfortable to stay and relax – next to the Beach Resort – each with a little veranda where you can put your feet up and look out directly onto the beach. Due to the fact that all buildings (except Rupesh’s!) have to come down for the monsoon season, everything has a quaint temporariness about it. Do seek him out, all the locals know him and will point you in the right direction.
You’ll fall in love with the place, as we all do – and don’t forget to take a copy of Lemon Seas with you on the plane to get you in the mood, and perhaps finish reading it on a veranda at Rupesh’s as the breeze ruffles the palm trees overhead and the waves beat a gentle rhythm on the beach . . . and maybe a dancer comes by . . .
Thank you to Neil for sharing his top tips for South Goa!