A Touch of Love
A Touch of Love
Before The Accidental Woman I had attempted to write two highly autobiographical novels. The first of these, The Sunset Bell, was completed in the early 1980s but never published. The second, Paul’s Dance, was abandoned after I had written about 100,000 words. The Accidental Woman, with its female protagonist and deliberately experimental approach, was written as a conscious reaction against these two books.
With A Touch of Love, though, I returned to the autobiographical mode. The main character, Robin, is identifiably a version of myself, and some of the other characters are also based on friends and acquaintances from my time at Warwick University.
Besides the main narrative, the novel also contains four interleaved short stories, and the reasons for this technique were entirely practical. I was still an unpublished writer when I began work on the book, and after all the rejections I had received for The Sunset Bell and The Accidental Woman, I was beginning to despair of ever getting a novel published at all. I thought that if I also wrote four self-contained short stories to be included within the main narrative, I might be able to get them published separately in a small literary magazine like Stand or the London Magazine. Half way through the writing of the book, though, The Accidental Woman was accepted by Duckworth, who indicated that they would also take A Touch of Love, so I abandoned the idea of publishing any of it separately. The idea of incorporating four separate short stories into a novel recurs in The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim.
Anna Haycraft at Duckworth didn’t like A Touch of Love as much as she had liked the previous novel. For one thing, she didn’t care for my working title, which was The Separatist. Numerous variations were tried (such as In The Absence of Friends) until I remembered being struck by the phrase ‘a touch of love’ while reading Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace. As you can see from the cover gallery below, this title has led some publishers to market the novel as being more romantic than it really is.
Originally the whole of the first section of A Touch of Love (‘The Meeting of Minds’) was written in the first person, from the point of view of Robin’s friend Ted. Anna also objected to this idea, and asked me to change it to a conventional third-person narrative, which I did. The original (first-person) version, which I re-read not long ago, has a very different – much darker – tone and atmosphere.
Like The Accidental Woman, A Touch of Love sold only about three hundred copies in hardback. The remaining copies were pulped, making it one of the most difficult of my editions to find on the second-hand market.