Father of all Stories is about how all of us, at some point in our lives, have to invent ourselves in order to transcend the seemingly concrete nature of reality. In essence it is a coming of age story exploring a threshold in time where invention can be at its most radical and potent – and yet at its most fragile.
Carla has a lot of inventing to do. She has a passion for books and an extreme talent for writing, but was born into a family that has no value for education and parents who want to kick their kids out of their council home the day they leave school. However, a passionate high school teacher and a crusader for equality persuades her gifted young student to imagine an alternative narrative. Putting in hours of her time, she takes Carla on an inspirational journey through literature and helps her to win a place to study English at Cambridge.
The fairytale story imagined by the two of them falls short of a successful new beginning when Carla finds herself completely incapacitated by feelings of inadequacy once surrounded by the ‘Queen’s children’ at Cambridge. Desperately lonely, she returns to her hometown scene in London to seek the familiar and join a writing course with some friends. This group of friends are young and vulnerable, hungry for success, for love, for acknowledgement. Destabilised already by their desires, they enter the circumference of Gurdev – writing teacher, manipulator and God man, who encourages his young students to go beyond the limits of their creativity: to break down distinctions between the real and the unreal – to enjoy the liberty of the unfamiliar – a place that he is all too familiar with.
Carla finds herself pulled into Gurdev’s magnetic field through an unstoppable physical attraction, but she is not alone. Everyone in this awe-struck group of young writers who call themselves the Post-Bloomsburys is defined and created by their encounters with Gurdev. And while some are attracted to him, others are repelled, feeling that they are simply playing their part in a greater narrative – Gurdev’s manipulative metafiction.
Gurdev, the master storyteller, is called to account by his students when they feel his imagination has gone too far. Lives are at risk, not to mention sanity, security and relationships. But whoever said that riding the waves of creativity would be a comfortable exercise?
Intuitively, Carla knows that she has to abandon herself to Gurdev’s unreality in order to create her own – to discover an enduring strength and sense of her place in the world. But there are doubts that plague her – like her concern for her unstable friend, Daniel, who everyone says is being tipped over the edge by Gurdev; or the anger of her friend Boyd, who claims that Gurdev convinced him to live out a gay narrative; or Faith, who claims that Carla and she have been sharing the affections of their teacher.
And then there’s Virginia Woolf who appears when Carla finds a ‘room of her own,’ and who stays throughout the narrative to give her (usually unsolicited) advice on how to handle the uncertainties of fiction.
Father of all Stories is an ambitious novel showcasing the writing skills of its author, its narrator and its characters, who together demonstrate the pleasures of making a pen sing and the profound truth that for the better part of our lives we live in our imaginations, and in doing so, create our own reality.