I first met my friend and RoomtoWrite collaborator, novelist Avril Joy, in prison. We were both, in our own way, ‘serving time’. Avril was three quarters of a the way through a twenty-five year teaching commitment. I was beginning what was to be a four year association with this women’s prison as a Writer in Residence. It was then that she started out on her writing career and it was then that I had the life-changing experience of helping a whole range of women from all walks of life to find their (often silenced) voice in writing.
One of several great outcomes of this experience for me, my novel Paulie’s Web, was a long time coming. It took me ten years to digest these powerful impressions sufficiently to write this novel as true fiction - in a way that still paid tribute to the many women I met while working there; I thought that if it went some way to cracking the absurd stereotypes of 'women in prison' that would be an extra delight. It is true that there are some dark passages here in the novel but the ultimately optimistic tone of this story is a true reflection of the mutual support, humour, stoicism and kindness that I was witness to in my prison experience.
So, what is it about?
‘on the out’, she reflects on her life in prison. She focuses particularly on her first few weeks inside, alongside the four very different women whom she first met in the white van on their way to their first remand prison.
Paulie’s thoughts move from Queenie*, the old bag- lady who sees giants and angels, to Maritza who has disguised her pain with an ultra-conventional life, to Lilah, the spoiled apple of her mother’s eye, and on to to the tragedy of Christine - the one with the real scars.
And then there is Paulie herself, who ended up in prison through no fault of her own. The unique stories of these women, past and present, mingle as Paulie - free at last - goes looking for these unique women who have now been ‘on the out’ for some years and are, Paulie hopes, remaking their lives.
Read the Chapter introducing Queenie HERE
Or click on the tab in the heading.
Most importantly: The Readers
*****Amazon Reviews - Samples
***** ‘… I loved the characters in Paulie's Web: their strengths, their weaknesses, their back-stories and in spite of everything - their humour.’
***** ‘In this exceptional and insightful novel, Wendy Robertson introduces us to the hidden world of invisible women that is prison. Her characters and their stories leap off the page at us, there are no stereotypes here, this is not Prisoner Cell Block H or Bad Girls but it is every bit as compelling. She is a consummate story-teller, who weaves a fascinating web around these disparate lives and if you want to know what prison is really like and who the women we lock away every day are then READ THIS.’
***** ..’With the sharpness of a journalist and the skill of a novelist, Robertson cleverly brings all of these characters to life, making the reader care about them. She has a deft style, almost a magician's touch, in that the characters quickly take root and you feel yourself urging Paulie forward and hoping she and the others find some resolution and peace. I loved the characters in Paulie's Web: their strengths, their weaknesses, their backstories and in spite of everything - their humour…’
***** ‘Wendy Robertson has pulled off something quite remarkable in her latest novel, Paulie's Web. I loved everything about it and read it in one sitting - on a long haul flight, something to be grateful for, even on that level.
***** ‘..Wonderful novel based on much truth of prison life impacting on women.’
***** ‘…also an argument for the way that literature and education can transform the lives of prisoners. It has as much of a good feel exit as is compatible with the plot … Wendy is a brilliant story-teller who has written more than twenty novels. This one draws on her experience of being a writer-in-residence working with prisoners. It's a fascinating glimpse behind the tabloid headlines at the unimaginably hard lives of some of those who end up in the prison system because of mental health problems, abusive childhoods, drink and drug dependency.’