Author of Living the Dream, Isabelle Dupuy answers some qeustions about her debut novel, out in paperback on 27th May.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Haiti and moved to the UK over twenty years ago in search of a kind of American Dream. ‘Living the Dream’ is my first novel.
2. What gave you the idea for Living the Dream?
The idea for ‘Living the Dream’ came to me in stages. I had always wanted to write a big novel about the drive to get out of danger and poverty and find a middle-class existence complete with family in the West. I always knew the beginning, what took me a long time was to find the end. Because of course when you’re so busy running away from a hopeless situation or place, you forget to look where you’re going.
3. In the novel you write about marriage and family life alongside the search for success and affluence. Why did you choose to explore the relationship or impact of these aspects of life on each other?
I think they are interlinked. You want to be able to provide for your family. You want your children to have opportunities and access beyond what you had. I believe they are part of the same drive, to create a new life. It’s also a reflection of an immigrant’s way of thinking. After all what’s the point of leaving your country, your people to go to a cold foreign and sometimes hostile city if not to thrive?
4. Living the Dream centres around two immigrant women who have created affluent lives in London, why did you choose to write about this particular immigrant experience and connect it to Brexit?
The two protagonists of ‘Living the Dream’, Naomi and Solange are special. They are highly driven, capable women but they suffer from alienation. Their view of London, of England evolves throughout the novel as their adventures in marriage and money bring them to strange places. No matter how successful they seem, they can never truly disappear in the middle class identity because they are Black and from poor countries. Their cultural dissonances are shown in the novel through their problematic marriages to white men, one an immigrant from the continent, the other a British internal immigrant, from the working to the middle class.
5. Love is explored in many ways in this book - parental love, love between friends, romantic love, as well as self-love or love of one's identity. What does love mean to you and why does it interest you as a topic?
Love is the only emotion that can overcome Fear. This book is about two women who for a long time succeed against incredible odds because they have love. They feel loved. And what happens the day nothing but the love of their men is taken away from them.
6. Do you have a new book in the works? If so, could you tell us a little bit about it?
My new novel is a fictionalized account of the life and loves of Joute Lachenais, a woman who rose through the Haitian War of Independence to become the love of the second and third presidents of Haiti. She was never known as the First Lady but rather as The Most Beautiful Woman of Haiti.