Peninsula author writes about the discovery of a wild girl

Pauline Holdstock tells story of a wild girl and a hunter.

Author Pauline Holdstock will give a reading of her latest book The Hunter and the Wild Girl.

Author Pauline Holdstock will be giving a reading at the November 18 fundraiser for the 2017 Sidney and Peninsula Literary Festival.

She will be reading from The Hunter and the Wild Girl, a book set in France at the end of the 19th century. It’s about a hunter and a wild girl and what happens when they encounter each other.

“And hunting is still practiced avidly, a lot of very keen hunters down in that region. They hunt wild boar,” said Holdstock.

Holdstock always wanted to write, but kept putting it off as she felt she needed a ‘real’ career. It was when a life event happened, that the reality of ‘do it now’ came to her.

“So I dropped an enrolment that I had –at the time it was at UBC– to do a masters degree, and I just dropped that and decided ‘if you want to write, you have to write now,’” she said.

And so that she did, and it was a convenient time to boot, as it was right around the time of her first child. She would write when the baby was sleeping, and continued that through raising the whole family.

Her latest novel The Hunter and the Wild Girl, which came out in 2015, just won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize a couple of weeks ago and was a finalist for a couple of other prizes, including a finalist for the B.C. Book Prizes last year.

Holdstock said there’s no easy answer when it comes to where she draws her inspiration from.

She said there are lots of components and lots of pieces that get fitted together to make the idea of the book.

“Usually I’m inspired by something visual or something physical, and it’s that kind of emotional and aesthetic connection that I get that inspires me,” she said.

With this particular book, the initial inspiration or idea came when she was researching for another novel that was never completed. She later came across the case of a wild girl who had been seen in an area towards the North of France.

“When they pieced her story together they found that she had come over from North America on a ship. She had been brought over by somebody…”

Once Holdstock read that, she thought it would be a great idea to write about it.

“So I researched feral children and … there was at the time, a site called feralchildren.com that listed all the cases of children…” she said.

In France, Germany and Russia there’ve been several cases of feral children who have just appeared out of nowhere.

“They would perhaps be seen when they’re scavenging and foraging around a village and then people would give chase but they wouldn’t catch them,” she said.

“These children seem to be able to exist for a long time without actually getting captured. They do in the end and usually it’s a really tragic story.”

She said oftentimes there’s a tendency among people to romanticize it all.

“You want to make it so wonderful, the child’s living in the wild, but in fact, of course, it’s one of the most terrible things to live in isolation and to live in need and in want, and to not have anybody that you belong to. That’s like the depths of experience, if you like, to have nobody.”

The event for Holdstock and Steven Price will take place at the SHOAL Centre beginning at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18. Tickets are at Tanner’s Books or online at eventbrite.ca.

All revenue will go to support the Sidney and Peninsula Literary Festival Society.

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