Who am I? Well, I write novels and other bits and pieces. And I study temples in India. -- Irene Black
I met Irene Black, author of The Moon's Complexion, in Guildford. We chatted about this and that, including BookCrossing, Paulo Coelho and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I came away with a signed copy of The Moon's Complexion, which I said I would register on BookCrossing and arrange for its release in some far flung place. [see BCID 5438160]
It somehow came as no surprise to be chatting to Irene Black. It was one of those months. I was in Guildford for a farmers market, which fortunately was able to take place as the foot and mouth restrictions had been partially relaxed. The last market had unfortunately been cancelled at short notice. It was then, sitting outside a pub relaxing by the river, I got chatting to a lovely Lithuanian girl who was reading The Zahir by Paulo Coelho. One month later, the day I met Irene Black, my lovely Russian friend Alissa e-mailed me to say she would like to read The Zahir. [see Synchronicity and Paulo Coelho]
The Moon's Complexion is set in India. Ashok Rao, a young consultant at Queen Anne's Hospital in London, receives a letter from his mother that summons him back to Bangalore in India for an arranged marriage. But who is the strange English woman who seeks him out? Why is she afraid, what is the secret that binds the two of them together? The lives of two strangers is turned upside down when the past comes back to haunt them. Published in 2005 by Guildford-based publisher Goldenford, The Moon's Complexion was Irene Black's debut novel.
Irene Black's second novel Darshan (2008) features Sara, an Indian studying at Oxford. Lonely and far from home she falls easy prey to Ieuan, a religious fanatic, who seduces her into a religious cult. It is only when members of the sect try to gang-rape her that Sara comes to her senses. [see BCID 7161188]
Darshan opens with a very beautiful and haunting poem, reminiscent of one of the poems by Persian poet Rumi (1207-1273) that Paulo Coelho featured on his blog and 'The Road Not Taken' by American poet Robert Frost which Paulo Coelho features in his novel The Winner Stands Alone. Both poets were loved by Neda Agha-Soltanis, a 26-year-old philosophy student who was killed by thugs acting for the Supreme Being in Iran when protesters took to the streets to demand an end to the Islamic regime.
Darshan is very Paulo Coelho, especially the discussion of darshan. Darshan is seeing God, and God seeing you. It is the Buddhist concept of enlightenment. It is the Jewish practice of Kaballah, of being as one with God. It is crossing the transition zone, of communicating with the Soul of the World. Knowing God and being known.
Darshan is a very powerful novel, part love story, part thriller, part spiritual quest.
Irene Black graduated from Manchester University with a degree in psychology, worked as a research psychologist not only in England at the Ministry of Defence, but also in Australia at Melbourne University and in New York, where she was part of a research team at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, working on the Apollo Space Project (doing in her words 'mainly unbelievably ghastly things to unsuspecting volunteers!').
On her return to England she began to teach, ending up as Head of Modern Languages at a large comprehensive school in Surrey. In 1999 a spinal injury forced her to give up this post. This gave her back her life, enabling her to concentrate on her writing, poetry and short stories.
She has recently been awarded a MA research degree in South Indian Temple art and architecture by De Montfort University. Her 'specialist subject' is a group of 12th and 13th century temples in Southern Karnataka in India.
She has drawn on her multicultural background to write The Moon's Complexion and Darshan.
Irene Black has written a non-fiction book, Sold ... to the Lady with the Lime-green Laptop - tales of on-line auctions.
Irene Black writes a delightful blog This & that from Irene Black. The blog has been nominated for a Creative Blogger Award.
Irene Black has won several national and international prizes for short stories, poetry and articles, including the 2003 National Association of Writer' Groups Annual Short Story Award.