When 'Return to Eden' Meets Manchester's RNCM

Post Date: 6 April 2016
Post Type: Piano Things

Tori_de_Clare_novels.jpeg

When ‘Return to Eden’ meets RNCM: Two new suspense thrillers set around Manchester and its world famous music college

The intense, hardworking concentrated hours spent beavering away as a musician in the 21st century are not for the faint hearted! Though most professional musicians are in the extremely fortunate position of being able to earn a living from doing what they passionately love the most, there is no hiding the fact that the lifestyle that goes with being a musician is all consuming. If schedules are not monitored carefully, it is easy to notch up 14 hour days in extended punishing schedules that can mean weekends are as busy as Mondays-Fridays.


…so a bit of light hearted leisure time respite from the daily grind is essential if physical and mental health, as well as a good sense of perspective, are to be maintained. We need to relax, and we need entertainment that is easily digestible! For me, much of this ‘respite’ can come from films and fiction. I love my professional lifestyle, but I do need lots of fun and light hearted entertainment in my ‘downtime’ too.

With relaxation and escapism firmly in mind, and with an extremely demanding March just behind me, I downloaded Tori de Clare’s two novels from Amazon Kindle, hoping for some fantasy and thrills to divert me via holiday reading. I was initially encouraged to buy these novels by one of my students at college, the pianist Adam Davies, as they are written by his mother:


Tori de Clare teaches piano in Yorkshire- her ‘day job ’is something she has done successfully for many years. Naturally I was very intrigued and curious to read her novels, written over the past few years, especially as much of the action in them centres around the life of an 18-year-old RNCM student pianist called Naomi Hamilton. Naomi, the heroine comes from a wealthy family. The first novel begins with her entering the RNCM as a fresher, choosing initially to live in the Charles Groves Halls of Residence! There are many delightful ‘inside’ touches which current students and staff alike at RNCM will appreciate and warm to, with scenes set not only in the Groves Halls themselves but also in the college. There is even one episode in which Naomi performs Chopin’s C sharp minor etude to Nathan, her treacherous fiancé, in teaching room 180. The fact that Adam had most of his undergraduate lessons in that same room from 2011-15 with John Gough makes me smile!

Capturing the buzz and excitement as well as something of the anxiety and insecurity felt by fresher’s in a novel is no easy task, but de Clare effortlessly manages to do this alongside the development of plot. She paints convincing backcloths to her fast-action narrative that captures a vivid picture of what it is like to be a student at music college today in Manchester. There are thrills, spills, anguishing scenes of suspense and lots of misunderstandings. Moreover, the domestic scenes in the family home, set in Alderley Edge, are touching and moving. The reader cannot fail to get caught up in the web of misunderstanding, frustration and pent up anger that is all part of the repressive and unfulfilled lifestyles of each member of the Hamilton family. De Clare clearly understands the psyches not only of sheltered, introverted young pianists, but also of overbearingly protective and aggressive ‘tiger mothers’ too. Her characterisation of Naomi’s mother Camilla is especially powerful.

The second book continues where the first leaves off, cleverly turning the tables so that for much of the action Naomi is viewed as a suspect rather than as a victim. The novel reaches an exciting climax and finishes after much trauma, plot twists, danger and treachery. Finally, Naomi arrives in the Maldives for her second marriage. A third book is currently being written and should complete what amounts to an extremely exciting and vivid romp of a plot that has already stacked up hundreds of favourable reviews from the US and UK on the Amazon.com website.

Having just finished reading both books in an intensive three-day marathon session, I feel invigorated and refreshed not only by the clarity of the writing, but also by the sharpness of the plot and the conviction of the action. De Clare’s great strength is her powerful delineation of plot. The story line is as solid as granite and never feels manufactured or artificial. I consistently visualised the story line, which is remarkably cinematographic in conception. Certainly it would work very well as a TV miniseries. In plot outline there are lots of similarities between De Clare’s books and the Australian 1983 soap opera ‘Return to Eden’. I would even go as far as to rename When ‘Return to Eden’ meets RNCM: Two new suspense thrillers set around Manchester and its world famous music college

The intense, hardworking concentrated hours spent beavering away as a musician in the 21st century are not for the faint hearted! Though most professional musicians are in the extremely fortunate position of being able to earn a living from doing what they passionately love the most, there is no hiding the fact that the lifestyle that goes with being a musician is all consuming. If schedules are not monitored carefully, it is easy to notch up 14 hour days in extended punishing schedules that can mean weekends are as busy as Mondays-Fridays.

…so a bit of light hearted leisure time respite from the daily grind is essential if physical and mental health, as well as a good sense of perspective, are to be maintained. We need to relax, and we need entertainment that is easily digestible! For me, much of this ‘respite’ can come from films and fiction. I love my professional lifestyle, but I do need lots of fun and light hearted entertainment in my ‘downtime’ too.
With relaxation and escapism firmly in mind, and with an extremely demanding March just behind me, I downloaded Tori de Clare’s two novels from Amazon Kindle, hoping for some fantasy and thrills to divert me via holiday reading. I was initially encouraged to buy these novels by one of my students at college, the pianist Adam Davies, as they are written by his mother:

Tori de Clare teaches piano in Yorkshire- her ‘day job ’is something she has done successfully for many years. Naturally I was very intrigued and curious to read her novels, written over the past few years, especially as much of the action in them centres around the life of an 18-year-old RNCM student pianist called Naomi Hamilton. Naomi, the heroine comes from a wealthy family. The first novel begins with her entering the RNCM as a fresher, choosing initially to live in the Charles Groves Halls of Residence! There are many delightful ‘inside’ touches which current students and staff alike at RNCM will appreciate and warm to, with scenes set not only in the Groves Halls themselves but also in the college. There is even one episode in which Naomi performs Chopin’s C sharp minor etude to Nathan, her treacherous fiancé, in teaching room 180. The fact that Adam had most of his undergraduate lessons in that same room from 2011-15 with John Gough makes me smile!
Capturing the buzz and excitement as well as something of the anxiety and insecurity felt by fresher’s in a novel is no easy task, but de Clare effortlessly manages to do this alongside the development of plot. She paints convincing backcloths to her fast-action narrative that captures a vivid picture of what it is like to be a student at music college today in Manchester. There are thrills, spills, anguishing scenes of suspense and lots of misunderstandings. Moreover, the domestic scenes in the family home, set in Alderley Edge, are touching and moving. The reader cannot fail to get caught up in the web of misunderstanding, frustration and pent up anger that is all part of the repressive and unfulfilled lifestyles of each member of the Hamilton family. De Clare clearly understands the psyches not only of sheltered, introverted young pianists, but also of overbearingly protective and aggressive ‘tiger mothers’ too. Her characterisation of Naomi’s mother Camilla is especially powerful.
The second book continues where the first leaves off, cleverly turning the tables so that for much of the action Naomi is viewed as a suspect rather than as a victim. The novel reaches an exciting climax and finishes after much trauma, plot twists, danger and treachery. Finally, Naomi arrives in the Maldives for her second marriage. A third book is currently being written and should complete what amounts to an extremely exciting and vivid romp of a plot that has already stacked up hundreds of favourable reviews from the US and UK on the Amazon.com website.

Having just finished reading both books in an intensive three-day marathon session, I feel invigorated and refreshed not only by the clarity of the writing, but also by the sharpness of the plot and the conviction of the action. De Clare’s great strength is her powerful delineation of plot. The story line is as solid as granite and never feels manufactured or artificial. I consistently visualised the story line, which is remarkably cinematographic in conception. Certainly it would work very well as a TV miniseries. In plot outline there are lots of similarities between De Clare’s books and the Australian 1983 soap opera ‘Return to Eden’. I would even go as far as to rename ‘Either side of Midnight’ as ‘Return to RNCM’! The old Aussie epic drama series is a personal favourite of mine and is regularly re-watched by all my family from year to year. In terms of ‘camp’ and kitsch the quality of its acting and the lines presented for the cast never fail to amuse. But that is by the by- laughing at how bad the acting and script of ‘Return to Eden’ is does not insult De Clare’s work. What is amusing and coincidental is the way in which the basic narrative of both 1980s soap opera and the two De Clare Novels coincide. ‘Return to Eden’s heroine Stephanie Harper is just as naïve, wealthy and insecure as ‘Either Side of Midnight’s Naomi Hamilton. In both film and novel, the bridegroom of the heroine elope with her best friend, with most of the subsequent dramatic action outlining ways in which the heroine can extract personal revenge. This happens by ‘comebacks’ in both from assumed death. The heroines work secretively, defy conventional authority (i.e. the Police) and come perilously close to grave dangers on several occasions! Here is ‘Return to Eden’s’ Stephanie Harper with her treacherous husband Greg Marsden, tennis professional and ex playboy extraordinaire, on their wedding day:

What makes ‘Return to Eden’ doubly funny is that Greg was already well known as a pop singer (James Reyne) before taking on the role in the film. Sadly (or perhaps not so sadly for those who enjoy a bit of a giggle at such things) his acting remains one dimensional throughout. Stephanie and Greg in the film are really Naomi and her husband Nathan Stone 10-20 years older. ‘Return to Eden’ was extremely popular in its day. And not because of the roundness of its characters- on the contrary, the audacity and clumsiness of the actors and direction make it something of a ‘camp classic’ for those of us who enjoy period bad taste. The fact that the remastered DVDs of the film contains dreadfully clumsy background music (with excruciating and odd dissonant clashes in the orchestra’s higher instruments- what is happening here?!) makes the whole thing all the more entertaining.
And this is where the De Clare novel parallel breaks off- there is nothing Kitschy or unbelievably camp about either of these two smoothly paced novels. True the prose is not always as eloquent as in Somerset Maugham or DH Lawrence, but that is not the point: De Clare uses language for purpose and effect, combining her powers of articulation with a real sense of narrative direction. The result is a pair of most unusual thrillers that will appeal not only to musicians and readers who know Manchester and its surrounds, but also on a wider canvas to audiences who enjoy suspense and high wire popular drama. Strongly recommended.
Available on Amazon:

Return to Eden- www.amazon.com/Return-Eden-Complete-Collection-Mini

Either Side of Midnight- http://www.amazon.com/Either-Side-Midnight-Saga-Book-ebook

The Darkness Visible- http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Visible-Midnight-Saga-Book-ebook


Murray McLachlan 6 April 2016