Book Review - Tom & Edith by Vernon Tottle
I was very lucky during the night of 18 September 2019. At around 3 am, I woke up with a story going round my head. I don’t remember dreaming about it, it was just there. I lay in bed for a few minutes thinking about the adventure in my brain and decided it was too good to forget. So I got out of bed, woke up the computer and typed up a plot summary. File creation time is recorded as 04:14.
Months passed by and in the dark days of December last year I decided to type up my little story. I found that the words came easily enough; after all, I am used to creating articles from almost nothing for my own parish magazine when we are running short of copy to fill the pages. I completed several pages of a short novel in only a few days. Another flash of inspiration whilst doing the washing-up allowed me to complete the story and by Christmas I had the basis of my book.
Universal guidance from the internet was – leave it alone for a month. Following that advice was so hard. I wanted to edit it, change a few things and spend more time with my new pet project. But I was ruthless and allowed four weeks to go by before sitting down and rereading it from start to finish. There were passages that were too complicated, some that were too short and some that just didn’t need to be there. Eventually I had a short novel ready for public scrutiny - so I gave it to my sister. Her several pages of notes came back and I must say she had spotted things that I hadn’t even noticed were wrong. Spellings, grammar and plot details that couldn’t possibly happen. So I returned to the computer and amended those points that I felt needed further attention.
A friendly artistic designer produced a cover and I got a local printer to do a short initial run and there I had it, my debut short story, Tom & Edith, which I could hold in my hand. Unless you’ve done that sort of thing yourself, you have no idea how fulfilling that felt. However, a couple of months later, when the first lockdown started, I began to feel I hadn’t really done the story justice. It was lacking something but it took me a while to realise what it was. I had written the entire story from just the hero’s point of view. So I put myself in the heroine’s shoes (having read a good deal of chick-lit in my time, I found this surprisingly easy to do) and began to write her story as a separate book, Edith & Tom. Soon after that, I combined the two novels and produced an expanded version of Tom & Edith’s adventure. Further intense proof reading and historical research necessarily moved the beginning of the story on by about a year but the definitive Tom & Edith, second edition, is now in print.
On the one hand, I surprised how easy the whole exercise had been, but on the other, I was amazed how long it had taken. But when you’re doing something creative and when you have no specific deadline to meet, it’s quite true that time doesn’t really matter. Currently, Winchester U3A doesn’t have a Creative Writing Group and based on having written only two short stories (the first Tom & Edith [only two copies sold so far] and the other a failed entry for the National U3A short story competition this summer) I’m not sure I’m the best person to lead it. But if enough members make contact, I’m sure we can come up with something!
As an introduction to the novel, chapter one follows herewith.
Tom & Edith
By Vernon Tottle
“Thomas Liebchen. Breakfast’s ready. Get down now or you’ll be late. And Aunt Sophia has sent you another couple of magazines.”
Still lying in his bed, Tom rubbed his eyes and yawned. The Pennsylvanian sun had already pierced his curtains; it looked like another lovely spring day. “Coming, mom!” he shouted as he looked around for his clothes. Fortunately his mother as usual had laid them out for him on his chair to make his daily preparations just that bit easier. She had always done that, starting when they had lived in Leipzig fifteen years ago and he had been getting dressed for kindergarten. Now in his final year at Montgomery High, Tom had a young man’s body and his clothes had changed accordingly but they were still set out for him every day.
Down at breakfast, tucking into his Corn Flakes, he tore open the package of magazines from Germany. Radio for Young Germans and German Scientist fell onto the tablecloth as he munched his way through his cereal.
“Aunt Sophia tells me in her letter that the Nazis are imposing postal censorship next month,” said Tom’s mother. “So these may be the last magazines for a while.”
“Hey mom, it looks like this issue covers the new valve they’ve been developing for shorter wavelengths,” was all that Tom had to say in reply.
“Gut, sehr gut,” Mrs. Muller replied as she washed up the plates from her husband’s breakfast. He had already left for work at the college. He liked to be in long before his pupils to make sure he had everything set up in the laboratories in time for their classes.
“And the other magazine’s got reviews of the principles of rockets. Imagine that, mom. We might soon be able to send people from one country to another in minutes!”
"Ja, ja,” she muttered as she dried up the cups and put them away, sadly only a remnant of her treasured collection of crockery, most of which she had to leave behind when they left Germany seven years ago.
She suddenly realised that Tom had stopped eating, even stopped talking and was just looking open-mouthed at a photo in one of his new magazines. “What’s that you’re looking at?” she asked her son.
“Mom,” Tom replied, “that’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
If you want to read what happens next, please contact me.