VOICES: Bobbi French and the ‘funny as hell’ Good Women of Safe Harbour
The Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association’s 2023 VOICES campaign is focusing on mental health, and authors who write about it and/or who have lived with mental health challenges or illness.
The lead interviewer is Triny Finlay, a professor of English at the University of New Brunswick. Finlay is the author of several books, including Myself a Paperclip, which explores her experiences with mental illnesses, their treatments, and stigma.
This novel exemplifies how narratives can provide insight on the depth of mental health and stimulate meaningful discussions. In a perfect example of these meaningful discussions, Bobbi French and Triny Finlay sit down to discuss the importance of mental health and the role it plays in The Good Woman of Safe Harbour.
Bobbi French had worked as a psychiatrist before writing her debut novel.
Having personally witnessed all the intricacies and challenges as a psychiatrist, French embarked on this book with interest in writing about the complexities of mental illness.
To her, the allure lies in showcasing “an extraordinary thing being done by an ordinary person.”
In the past, her encounters with extraordinary things being done by ordinary people include burdened individuals who are often unnoticed, underestimated, and silently struggling, but who are also smart, resilient, and “funny as hell.”
These remarkable individuals not only survive seemingly unimaginable circumstances, but they also inspire French, as when she set out to write this book she “couldn’t imagine writing about anything else.”
The women whom French brought to life in her novel all experience a range of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and trauma, shedding light on unspoken struggles faced by many individuals in society.
In conversation, Finlay commends French’s ability to portray mental illness as an illness itself, without any sensationalism or pity.
French affirms that this was one of her objectives, stating, “If we can just create some understanding, empathy, humour, on the light, the dark, and life itself around these major mental illnesses, then we are doing something right with our words and our life and our poetry.”
Through these insightful reflections, French’s genius is solidified, with meaningful connections between reality and The Good Women of Safe Harbour, discussions about modern womanhood and autonomy, goodness and rebirth, as well as her inspirations; all of which unlock a deeper level to French’s writing.