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The Love and Wisdom Crimes

BY RUTH HARTLEY

A coming of age adventure story about a young woman who discovers that, in apartheid South Africa, it is dangerous to love a revolutionary and a crime to love someone black.

Trying to make sense of her past and her present, Jane visits the South Africa of her youth and finds that the conflicts of her life then have their echo in her life now.

An accompanying book of poetry, The Spiral-Bound Notebooks, contains the poems that inspired this novel.

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The Love and Wisdom Crimes


By Ruth Hartley

“It’s a strange business being a writer. I want my readers to live inside my stories and experience them as reality and as stories that feel ‘true’ even though they are fictional inventions. This remains the case even when I take my own life experiences and rework them into a new story. It’s odd that my novels set in the time of my youth slot into the genre of historical fiction. That seems absurd to me, though probably not to my children. When I write a novel, I’m creating a world and I have to make all the characters true to themselves.”Ruth Hartley

“Deft, impressive writing, evocative of place and time in which political dangers lie hidden like land mines”

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Ruth Hartley 1961 and 2019

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The Spiral-Bound Notebooks

BY RUTH HARTLEY

"My notebooks contain not just the marks of a pen, but the living memories that glued me and my soul together as I journeyed through life. I really don’t know how they survived for so long. Sometimes all that a refugee or a migrant can carry from home are the words and music of a song.

Most of the poems in this chapbook come from my life in South Africa but some were written in secret during my married life in Zambia. I hid them away in a blue folder in the spare room that doubled as my sewing room and writing study.

Perhaps it is in these private creative spaces that our human freedoms are made and preserved?"

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The Spiral-Bound Notebooks


By Ruth Hartley

Ruth Hartley’s poetry collection has real range, a strong political awareness, beautiful imagery, the dark night of the soul, but finally, light and hope.

“Many of the poems … recall this time of unrest and confusion in South Africa. Through them Ruth captures the feel of the country, the poverty, the damage, the loss of freedom, she mixes her fear and anger at the time with images of the Africa she had grown to love. There were times when she feared for her life due to her close connection with the anti-Apartheid movement.”Kate Rose, Bonjour Limousin


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Photo by Adrian Frith - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0



"I began to write poetry in spiral-bound stenography notebooks while at university in South Africa. It was a way of resisting apartheid but also of discovering who I was and wanted to become. Poetry can be an intense and economic diary. The notebooks came too when I ran away to London and by some miracle are still with me today. They remained hidden for long years until their ideas germinated into more poetry, my novel, The Love and Wisdom Crimes and my memoir, When I Was Bad"
Ruth Hartley



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When I Was Bad

BY RUTH HARTLEY

In the 1930s George Bernard Shaw's black girl searches for God, but settles down in a garden with an Irish socialist. In 1966 I was the bad white girl — an unmarried mother and a criminal according to the laws of South Africa.

My 1996-1997 memoir of love and exile starts on Victoria Station. Exile is not a word on paper but a lived experience. It is a lonely, bitter place of loss and nostalgia, as I had yet to find out. It’s the opposite of home. I was exiling myself to a place I didn’t know, where I had no friends or relatives. Exile is not a holiday trip. You can’t travel back from it. Exile is loss; it’s a version of dying.

I wasn’t sure whether my family would cast me out when they learnt the real reason I was in England. At that moment on Victoria Station it was too late for a change of plan. But I’d never thought that going home was a real option anyway.

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When I Was Bad


By Ruth Hartley

“A memoir is not a story where the characters are understood from inside to outside by their creator. My memoir is a steamy mirror on which I have drawn a self-portrait with a damp finger. It is supposedly a reflection of what I was, but it can’t be that exactly because it is made by me as I am now. No amount of soul-searching can take me far enough out of myself to objectively describe my actuality. What I do know is that when, pregnant and afraid, I escaped to swinging London, I found that being in love and learning how to be a loving mother and person was considerably more complicated than I had imagined.”
Ruth Hartley


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Black and white image of a young woman in a striped t-shirt with baby in a cloth carrier on her back at at demonstration outside Marlborough House in London in 1966. She wears sunglasses and had her hair tied back. A policeman stands in the background next to a placard bearing the words SOUTH WEST AF...

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The Tin Heart Gold Mine

BY RUTH HARTLEY

Heart of Darkness and Lust for Life collide as the Cold War in Africa gets hot.

Lara, the artist, loves Oscar, a suave, older entrepreneur, and owner of the Tin Heart Gold Mine. She also loves Tim, a journalist seeking truth.

The Tin Heart Gold Mine is a dramatic story, about vibrant, intriguing characters passionate about art, love, the making of money and the African bush, whose lives become entangled in war and politics.

How well do we ever know the people we love?

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The Tin Heart Gold Mine


By Ruth Hartley


The Tin Heart Gold Mine is on the surface a story of an artist in Africa seeking a personal strategy for fulfilment. On her way, she encounters idealistic foreign correspondent, Tim, and Oscar, an older man with a mysterious past.

But, deeper than that, it is a story of betrayal, hard choices, personal and social violence. At the end you are left with doubt — Will Tim come back? Can Oscar really be dead? and who is the father of Lara’s child? A fascinating read!John Corley


Ruth Hartley on Talk Radio Europe, Spain, March 2017




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The Shaping of Water

BY RUTH HARTLEY

As ideals and dreams founder on the rocks of political realities, three couples and a mother and son search for ways to keep the faith.

The vast man-made Lake Kariba in Zambia is built on political and geological fault lines. Built to generate power and maintain colonial power, it drowns a valley and displaces Milimo and his mother Natombi. Charles and Margaret love the lake and their holiday cottage on its shore, but their way of life is endangered. Marielise and Jo take respite at the cottage from their exhausting battle against apartheid. Manda and Nick confront their damaged relationship.

They are all connected by a secret known only to the priest, Father Patrick.

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The Shaping of Water


By Ruth Hartley

The Shaping of Water is a very good read. Interconnected lives are affected by a single act; the creation of the Kariba dam. The unintended consequence is an altered ecosystem and the separation of populations and countries. … Visitors leave their names and comments in the guest book of a cottage on the lake shore. The water level rises and falls and the natural world of plants and birds is woven into the story in brilliant passages of calm in the midst of turmoil.Polly Loxton (Amazon UK 28/01/14)


Lake Shelter at Kariba Dam mentioned in The Shaping of Water by Ruth Hartley

The Cottage Guest Book

Guestbook that was the basis for The Shaping of Water by Ruth Hartley

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The White and Black Blues

BY RUTH HARTLEY

The title story, The White and Black Blues, tells how Tom Waller was born in the wrong skin in Africa.

His friendship with black jazz musicians transforms his life, and takes him on a long journey away from his harsh father and their failing farm in Africa, but he must still discover who he really is “under his skin”.

This story grew out of my memory of the visit of the great Louis Armstrong to Rhodesia in 1960 and the pleasure I have in jazz today.

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The White and Black Blues


By Ruth Hartley


I released this short story collection to coincide with Marciac Jazz Festival 2016, as a free paperback to promote my novels.

The White and Black Blues contains the title story, selections from three novels and a memoir, another short story and a poem. It is now available to purchase on Kindle.

“Skokiaan” is a popular tune written by Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) musician August Musarurwa (d. 1968, aka August Msarurgwa) in the tsaba-tsaba big-band style that succeeded marabi. Skokiaan (Chikokiyana in Shona) refers to an illegal self-made alcoholic beverage.

Within a year of its 1954 release in South Africa, it reached No. 2 on the USA Cash Box charts. Many artists produced their own interpretations, including Louis Armstrong, who performed it in Rhodesia as recorded in the title story .Ruth Hartley




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The Drought Witch

BY RUTH HARTLEY

A story for children.

The evil Drought Witch swoops down on the farm that is Chipo and Chibwe's home. The crops fail and their father is bewitched.

Afraid of being turned into mice and eaten, the children run away to search for the Wise Woman of the Garden. They ask the Wise Woman to help them fight the Drought Witch. On their quest they have many amazing adventures.

This is a magical story about brave children who make a perilous journey through the heart of modern and magical Africa to save their parents’ farm from drought and climate change.

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The Drought Witch


By Ruth Hartley

I’m engaged in a major rewrite of my children’s book The Drought Witch. It’s an exciting task expanding a children’s picture book into a novel for 9 to13-year-olds but the interesting work is in the editing and paring down of my words to make them work well. This major commitment is keeping me fully occupied at the moment.

I have been mentored by Sandra Glover, a successful children’s author and consultant arranged by Cornerstones Literary Agency. It’s a good experience and my book is taking shape well.

Ruth Hartley

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The Drought Witch clutching the children
Rain Queen with children in tree

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Hannah's Housekeeping

BY RUTH HARTLEY

Hannah Ball runs a bed and breakfast in her terrace home in a university town. She is divorced for the third time, her children have left home, she is broke and too old to get the kind of work she thinks she deserves.

Hannah has murder on her mind and her ex-husband is missing but, as she cleans up the dirt in her house, she finds herself wondering if she can keep death from her door.

 

Hannah’s Housekeeping


By Ruth Hartley

An NBC News article asks the question, “Do white artists have the right to depict Black pain?” Noting how black and white artists may address the same subject matter, Art professor Dr. Lisa Whittington says, “As artists—responsible artists—we are to speak and to document history. We are to tell about life from our point of view from where we stand.”

This story made me question myself again in relation to my work. Must white artists limit themselves to their own culture or their guilt and wrongdoing in relation to other cultures? Who says that this must be so? History? Culture? Society? Can I explore injustice and oppression only if I have the identical experience? How do Germans face up to the Holocaust or South Africans to apartheid? These are questions I want characters in Hannah’s Housekeeping to face. I don’t know the answers.Ruth Hartley


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