Letters From a Shuttered Country – Christopher Steed
Confronting our mortality – a Canterbury Tales for our lockdown time.
This won’t be the first or last novel to come out from closed doors. But it may be amongst the most thought-provoking. It is a sort of Canterbury Tales meets Covid-19 and is the prelude to a lyrical exploration of what may emerge from all this- ‘What will Spring be like?’
Letters From a Shuttered Country by Dr Christopher Steed is a compelling, fictitious story imagined from the confines of lockdown during our current crisis. In a relevant format, Chris’ book will be streamed chapter by chapter from his website (www.christophersteed.co.uk) with three instalments now available to download.
This opening chapter instantly engages, committing readers to the relatable context of lockdown as the characters navigate their lives during such disorientating times. The story begins, introducing Bill and his loving daughter, Kate (or is she his daughter really?) who are hunkered down in isolation on the south coast of England. From the start, despite the optimism and stunning seaside location, there is an air of despair, frustration and challenge to coping with the bewildering lockdown predicament which is: “Destabilising, confusing – we didn’t know how to be or what to do.”
The author’s first chapter is immediately relatable and topical and remains so while our characters’ grapple with the strains of restriction from the ‘daily exercise’ quota to an unprecedented reliance on technology: “They’ll be spending more time on-line and that’s a Wild West sometimes.”
Like the lockdown rules, this new world order is shared globally, challenging everyone’s capacity to cope, as his character announces: “Bad business”, Bill said shaking his head. “If your family is struggling in the first place, things are going to snap with this virus.”
As the chapter progresses, the characters begin to question their own mortality and existence. This is a concurrent theme that the author achieves brilliantly by transporting readers back into Bill’s past, when he and Kate revisit some long-lost letters: “…what this pile of papers would yield? Would she learn very much and make the jig-saw pattern of his mysterious past come at last to a picture that made sense?”
Then, transported to Israel during the disruptive 1990s, the author relates the experiences of today to these travels: “There’s a whirlwind of judgement visiting the Earth at this hour of history.” It becomes clear that there is a secret here that binds four men. What is it?
What follows is a religious and philosophical journey, crossing boundaries of time, to explore emotional turmoil and survival amidst duress and disorder: “Steve had always been a survivor, always landed on his feet, always conceived himself to be invincible, possessed of an indestructible quality that gave him mastery of life. Now it bore upon him that life hung by a slender thread. He had never really troubled himself with the lonely questions of existence…But here in this place the need to sort out his own mortality was urgent and pressing.”
We had been lulled into supposing everything was predictable and assured. Letters From a Shuttered Country probes how lockdown has plunged people, with no warning or self-help guide, into an existential crisis in an unnerving situation: “You thought you were secure, living in a familiar world. And now, see what happens when the foundation can shake.”
The author’s intentions behind constructing Letters From a Shuttered Country are profound. Drawing on his personal experience, culture and knowledge, each chapter (released in piecemeal digital chunks) creates a moving story of how “Life was lived invisibly” during Covid-19. It unfolds like a contemporary Canterbury Tales as each of the main characters, who are re-united on Zoom, write a short story that reveals their own past.
Chris’ first three instalments of his evolving Letters From a Shuttered Country, are now available to download from his website.
LETTER FROM A SHUTTERED COUNTRY HAS NOW BEEN PUBLISHED IN PAPERBACK AND EBOOK FORMAT, AND IS AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE FROM AMAZON.
Price: £13.99 (Paperback); £2.99 (Kindle)
About the Author
Dr Christopher Steed is a prolific Christian writer, counsellor and educator who regularly contributes papers to conferences across multi-disciplinary boundaries on subjects he has taught. As a Minister, he is currently developing faith-based community hubs in the Southampton area with a mix of deep heritage, social innovation and eco-activism.
Chris has 12 years’ experience of management and policy in public sector provision and spent three years in a senior role as UK HQ Director of an international not-for-profit charity. He has also worked in senior management in the voluntary sector and as a team leader of large Parish areas in the Church of England. In his role as Counsellor, Chris is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP) and holds a Diploma in Counselling. He has served as a Pastoral counsellor and Community worker.
As an Educator, Chris has taught in various contexts in Christian ministry development and has worked at the Holocaust Education Trust, on the Imperial War Museum Education Programme, as a School Governor, and has taught theology, history, RE, philosophy, sociology and psychology. He holds an MSc in social theory and international relations, a PhD in theology and doctorate in social sciences. He has written a series of path-breaking books.
Other Books by the Author:
Let the Stones Talk
A Question of Worth
Smart Leadership – Wise Leadership
We Count, We Matter
Speech of the Suffering Soul
A Question of Inequality, why it matters
The Identification principle