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Newbury author 'wanted to explore how difficult it was for non-binary people back in the 1940s'

Among the local authors recently promoting their work at Newbury library was Derek Ansell, known for his N2 jazz reviews, whose novel Elsie Sees it Through was hot off the press.

This is his seventh published work, including jazz biographies.

The book took him about five months to write, “although,” he says, “the research started much earlier”.

Derek Ansell at Newbury library
Derek Ansell at Newbury library

The plot begins in London, 1943. The War in Europe is raging. After Elsie bumps into a young soldier, they are attracted to each other and in time, become close friends.

Elsie lives with her widowed mother in a small North London house and has a close relationship with her longtime friend Julia, who would like that relationship to become more personal and intimate. After the young soldier Brian proposes marriage to Elsie, she doesn’t know who to choose.

Conflicted, Elsie doesn’t know what she wants or what she believes is her destiny. While sweeping changes take place across England and the rest of the world, Elsie must come to terms with her life and her future, and navigate a difficult, thorny path to happiness.

As well as a glimpse of life in London in the 40s, Derek says he “wanted to explore how difficult it was for non-binary people back in the 1940s and on into the 1980s”.

“The novel traces the problems faced for three people in particular and how Elsie, the central character, resolves it.

“She is certainly up against it often, sometimes her own fault, often not. Basically though, it is a love story set in difficult times but ‘Elsie Sees it Through’.”

Elsie has to choose between old love and new love she meets in wartime London, 1943. The book traces her progress through the end of the war, the death of King George VI, the coronation of Elizabeth II and on to the 1980s.

“Lots of love, lots of pain, lots of social change,” says Derek.

Publisher: Next Chapter.

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