Running Backwards Over Sand: Stephanie Dowrick
With her first novel (published in 1985 and now available in paperback), publisher and writer Stephanie Dowrick has created a long and uneven though often absorbing work, tracing the life of Zoë Delighty from birth to mature womanhood. It is a testament to the heroine’s survival of the vicissitudes of her active life, and her struggle to counter the malign influences of her girlhood which dog her through her attempts to engage herself creatively in life.
Running Backwards over Sand is divided roughly into thirds, with the first section covering Zoë’s New Zealand childhood and its important events – the separation of her parents, the death of her beloved mother and her resultant rebelliousness. The second part details Zoë’s life as a young woman abroad, and centres around her relationship with Gabriel, a German sculptor she meets in London and moves with to Berlin. This complex, often painful relationship remains central to Zoë’s life and a major preoccupation of the rest of the book, even after Gabriel leaves Zoë at the close of the second section. In the final section Zoë returns to London, trying to rebuild her life, making new friends and finding a fulfilling new job. Gradually she moves towards a resolution of her relationship with Gabriel and explores an emergent aspect of her sexuality in two important relationships with women.