Stephanie Bishop’s novel The Anniversary is a literary thriller as unsettling as it is engaging.
Booklist wrote of the book:
“Bishop expertly dissects the innards of a seesaw relationship and the inequities women must battle. The bristling arguments crackle brilliantly.”
The Anniversary is a book that started out as a story of a woman trying to figure out how to tell her life story, and how to get to the point where she could finally see things for what they were. It was always a book with a single consciousness at its core, wrestling with questions about art and power and love and rage – in particular women’s art and women’s power. It was an incredibly fun book to write, and one where I had to really hold the tone of my protagonist. I had to know, very deeply, the sound and pitch and feel of her voice, her consciousness. Music is hugely important to me. I don’t listen while I write, but music is there throughout the process – it helps me tap into the feelings that I’m trying to convey, and offers some kind of aural continuity in my head when the novel isn’t holding together on the page. I go to music for an injection of energy, to charge up an emotional state, to feel something propulsive and anticipatory. The Anniversary is a book that tracks big feelings, and there was probably a song in the background of every scene, moving the story along.
The travelling list. Vikingur Olafsson’s “Bach’s Prelude in G Minor”, Julien Marchal’s Insight II, especially “Insight XIV” and “Insight XV”
The early stages of the book were written while I was travelling in Japan. There was a couple of albums that I listened to on repeat as I took a series of long train journeys from the south of Japan up into the snow and the island of Hokkaido. This was an extraordinary and often deeply mediative landscape, and I needed music that felt like it spoke to this. The albums I turned to were Vikingur Olafsson’s Bach Reworks and Julien Marchal’s Insight II. These felt both hypnotic and suspenseful, full of strange anticipation. In the book the protagonist takes a similar journey at a time of crisis, and I imagine the songs I listened to on that trip as something of the soundtrack to that scene in the book.
I know, who adds this to their playlist? In Japan electronic versions of this were piped through nearly every hotel I stayed in. This later became a soundtrack to a scene, although it would plot-spoil to describe this. Let’s just say the protagonist didn’t want to hear it.
“Vladimir’s Blues” from Max Richter’s The Blue Notebook
A crucial recurring event in the novel is the cruise, where a storm leads to tragedy. The memory of this cruise starts to function a bit like a refrain in J.B’s consciousness, returning again and again with slight variations. Max Richter is my go-to here – there is a deceptive simplicity to his music but the cumulative effect of this is profound.
George Delerue’s compositions for Francois Truffaut’s films, especially “The Woman Next Door” and “Catherin et Jim”
In the novel, Truffaut’s films hold a special relevance for the two main characters, and are a point of reference what happens in their marriage.
Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Laura Brannigan “Gloria”, David Bowie “Fame”, Prince “Kiss”
I was a kid in the ’80s, and ’80s pop music will always have a big place in my heart. The international world of fame and glamour that J.B finds herself in has something of an ’80s vibe to me: fluorescent, synthesised, excessive, slightly delirious, full of high feeling.
Sinead O’Connor, “Last Day of Our Acquaintance”
The angry break up song.
Coldplay, “Yellow” and “The Scientist”
The songs of regret.
The National, “Fake Empire”
This song always shakes things up for me in a good kind of way, something to do with the polyrhythm and how the base kicks in. The book weaves together a series of narrative strands and I love finding songs where you can really feel those complexities of timing playing out in a different form. This was another track that I played on repeat in the early stages of drafting and when I was taking a train a long train ride out of New York. I think of this as Patrick’s theme song.
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah”
J.B’s song of reckoning.
Stephanie Bishop was recently appointed professor in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her criticism and fiction have appeared in the London Review of Books, the TLS, and the Sydney Review of Books. She is the author of Man Out of Time and The Other Side of the World, a Literary Fiction Book of the Year in the Australian Book Industry Awards 2016 and winner of The Readings Prize for New Australian Writing 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, the Indie Book Awards and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize.