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Book review and author interview: Not Knowing, but Still Going

This post is part of the blog tour for Jocelyn-Anne Harvey’s book Not Knowing, but Still Going (NKBSG) with the strap-line, ‘A buoyant hope for uncertain times’. It includes a book review and author interview. You may also wish to read posts for Day 1 and Day2 of the blog tour. Links to later posts: Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 and Day 7.

Not Knowing, but Still Going was published by Instant Apostle on 21 April 2021. It is available in paperback or Kindle editions.

Neatly packaged review copy


Jocelyn-Anne Harvey has taken the story of Noah and the flood as her starting point for this book, focussing on how life would have been for the four women in the ark. There are three strands to the book. The first is the Bible. The second is how life is for people at present with the uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The third is aspects of the author’s life, which illustrate the way God works. The three strands are spun into a seamless narrative. I was reminded of part of the verse Ecclesiastes 4:12:

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Cover: Not Knowing…

NKBSG is well-written and asks many questions of the reader. After each chapter there are contemplations and journaling exercises. These are well thought out and refer to other passages of scripture besides Genesis (the book where the story of Noah is told). The Psalms feature strongly, but we are taken on a journey all the way from the creation story in the first book of the Bible, Genesis to the last book, Revelation.

Although NKBSG is written for female readers, men might also learn from it. Noah is a major character after all.

I enjoyed this book and found much to ponder on. Its publication is timely as people try to pick up their lives after the pandemic.

Jocelyn-Anne Harvey has answered some questions I put to her about writing this book.

At the beginning of the book, you described how an event in 2008 near where you live was part of the inspiration for this book, and at the end you mention the encouragement you had to continue writing stories about Noah. Did pursuing a Creative Writing MA course increase your confidence in your ability as a writer?

Firstly, thank you for reading the Acknowledgements; well spotted about the MA encouragement I had for the Flood stories! I think in the sense of increasing confidence whatever we do to develop our writing muscle helps our ability. This could be anything from reading a writing blog, learning online or chatting with fellow writers. However, I think for me the discipline of postgraduate study and regular deadlines helped me to progress.

It was good to have the opportunity to dive deeper, read lots and especially workshopping –we had small groups where we both gave and received feedback for pieces written during each module. There were many times when I didn’t feel ‘good enough’ or made comparisons. But receiving positive feedback from my peers and lecturers did give me a confidence boost.

Through hindsight’s lens I’ve realised how my writing has developed since completing the Masters. I don’t think you’re fully aware when you’re caught up in the learning environment, but when I look back I can see the progress I’ve made. And I’m still balancing that tricky area of confidence and writing. I don’t think we can ever be completely confident as writers and perhaps that’s a good thing. In one way the wobbly area of doubt drives us to continually improve but what we don’t want is that doubt to stop us from picking up the pen or stop us from getting the pleasure that writing brings. I’m so glad that irrespective as to how I feel about my writing I can take confidence in the Lord and who I am in Him.

While you were writing NKBSG were you still travelling to work each day?

No, thankfully I didn’t have a commute while writing NKBSG neither was I working. For me, lockdown gave me opportunity to have the writing time. I commuted throughout my MA but wrote short stories, poems or flash fiction. I’m not sure whether I’d have been able to have had the focus to work on a longer manuscript whilst travelling up to London. Though having said that, maybe if I’d have had the impetus to write NKBSG then I would have done. It’s all about the timings with our writing work, isn’t it? As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 there is a season and a time for everything. I trust the Lord knew the time for my book to be written.

All writers are encouraged to read. Apart from the Bible, what are your favourite books?

I’m glad you mentioned the Bible because I always want to say that first when anyone asks me this question. There are so many favourite books I could choose. This is tricky! But the immediate books that come to mind are:

The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. I love Anne’s character and how Montgomery throughout the series shows her growing up and becoming a woman. Since childhood I’ve also identified with the main protagonist because ‘I’m an Anne with a e’ too!

The Rose Revived by Katie Fforde. Some books I can only read one time but this is a book I return to at least once a year. The story is so comforting like a bowl of chicken soup. And though I may know what’s coming next, I always find I’m surprised or pick up something new. Perhaps it’s because we change as we grow so our reaction to a book does too.

Cookbooks. Any kind from Mrs Beeton to Mary Berry. I love food and when you read Not Knowing, but Still Going there is even a section about eating. I often read cookbooks at bedtime but don’t have the time to make all the dishes the next day!

It might sound a bit strange to have an author say cookbooks are one of her favourite books but when you read a recipe closely there is quite an art to the way words have been used. You can learn a lot from thinking about how instructions have been described to the figurative language used to bring the cooking process and dish alive – Nigella is a great example of this.

Thank you, Jocelyn-Anne. We share some of the same tastes in literature. It is a long time since I read Anne of Green Gables, but I still remember the scene where she used a swear word and how she felt afterwards. I hope NKBSG has similar lasting impressions on its readers.

Jocelyn-Anne Harvey

Author bio – Jocelyn-Anne loves the Lord, learning and literature. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, and her flash fiction has been published. Having taken the leap from her senior HR role in the UK Government, Jocelyn-Anne can identify with those walking through uncertain times, and she is passionate about supporting others through theirs and helping them develop. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in a coffee shop with friends, exploring coastal paths or trying out recipes.

If you’d like to connect with Jocelyn-Anne Harvey search for her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Harvest and Hallowe’en

The original version of this post appeared on More than Writers on 31st October 2016. I have updated it to include the differences in celebrating Harvest and Hallowe’en in 2020 with a pandemic compared with previous years.

The date of my original post is a controversial one in October.  Celebrations of Hallowe’en are regarded with anything ranging from acceptance to horror by different Churches and individual members of the Church.  Merchandise connected with Hallowe’en appears in shops before the start of the autumn term.  More and more families and businesses are putting up decorations.  Here in the UK it is not as prevalent as in the US, but is it growing.

By 31st October many churches will have celebrated a Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving.  There is no set date for this.  It is not a Red Letter Day.  By contrast Hallowe’en can be placed in the Church calendar.  It is the day before All Saints’ Day.

Celebrating and giving thanks for the Harvest is a long tradition.  In the lands where the Bible stories were lived out there were harvests of different crops at different times of year.  In the story of Ruth harvests of different crops (and their failure) form the backdrop.

I live in a village surrounded by farms; harvest is an important part of life.  It is hardly surprising that Harvest Festival is usually one of the best attended services.  In 2016 the Reader, who gave the address at our service, mentioned a crop, which may not be well-known in drier parts of the country.

The expression make hay, while the sun shines is all very well, but where the land is often soaked by the damp (very wet) weather from the Gulf Stream, hay has been replaced by silage as a fodder crop.  As I understand it silage is made from grass, which has not been dried out fully to make hay.  It is partly rotted by the time the animals eat it and has a distinctive rather sweet smell.  Before Harvest Festival, I had already decided that my photo for the original post would be of some novelty silage sacks at a farm.

When I was close enough to take my photo, I could also read the name of the supplier of the sacks.  Carrs Billington had been running a competition on Facebook and raising money for a charity for sick children – WellChild – through these novelty sacks.  (The previous year there were some pink sacks for a Breast Cancer charity.)

In 2020 our Harvest Festival was rather low-key. The church building was not decorated lavishly with flowers and fresh produce to distribute later to the very elderly and those in hospital or care homes. Instead there were donations of non-perishable items for the local foodbank. The service was attended by a few people, while others watched the live-stream or caught up later.

October has brought our thoughts to Harvest and God’s good gifts to us and to his creatures.  It will soon be Hallowe’en for which the UK government has issued guidelines. Do you expect any Trick or Treaters to call?  How would you treat them?  I know this is something I am not good at.  Some people might give them home-grown apples as an alternative to the sweets they expect.  Other options are specially produced leaflets with a Christian message and perhaps a puzzle. It is likely that children tell their friends which houses have welcomed them.

Personally I’d prefer October to be remembered for Harvest, but the majority of people are likely to think of Hallowe’en first.

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What I read in August 2020 (Part 1)

I bought The widow’s secret by Katharine Swartz from a local bookshop, which is currently opening in the mornings only.

I have read and reviewed the previous three books in the series, The Tales of Goswell. Two characters from earlier in the series appear in this book, which may be read as a stand-alone novel. The widow’s secret continues with the same structure – two linked stories set in different centuries but similar locations told in alternate chapters. The stories are gripping. I finished reading this book the day after I began. The subject matter is not for those of a squeamish disposition, but tackles important matters of human relationships, exploitation and more.

Living in the area in which the stories are set (and having known the author when she also lived here) added to the interest of the book for me. I hope other readers will be encouraged to visit some of the places mentioned once travel becomes easier after the pandemic. The Beacon Museum and The Rum Story are worth visiting, but are currently closed.

My reviews of Katharine Swartz’s earlier books may be found here.

Book reviews A-M has the rest of the book reviews I have written.