Memories of a lost past

First-time author Toryn Chapman

First-time author Toryn Chapman, of O’Connor, and his mum, Joan... says his book would “appeal to anyone who loves their mother”.

THE chance discovery of a letter to a 10-year-old girl in a Sydney orphanage during the Great Depression of the 1930s inspired O’Connor management consultant Toryn Chapman to start writing what became “The Grey Cat”, a first novel which has been praised by Alzheimer’s Australia.
“It grew from a letter my mum found, to my grandmother when she was in an orphanage in Sydney, from her own grandmother back in England,” Toryn told “CityNews”.
“It didn’t refer to the tragic events that led my grandmother to be there, but reading between the lines it was an incredibly moving letter, with this woman on the other side of the world not being able to come and look after this little girl who meant the world to her.
“I was working full-time and our little boy was 12 months old, so every night after I came home from work, and when he was in bed, I’d sit down and write a thousand words. I have a pretty understanding wife!”
“The Grey Cat” weaves two stories together; a woman’s struggle to cope with her mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease, and her mother’s life in an orphanage as one of the “Forgotten Australians” (children who came to Australia from the UK), which increasingly intrude on the present.
Both stories are based on the experiences of Toryn’s mother, Joan, and her mother, Marjorie, who passed away in 1998.
“I wanted to help my mother come to terms with the grief she felt when her mother passed away, and also to write something that would be potentially meaningful to other people in the same situation.
“Alzheimer’s Disease robs us of the ability to ask loved ones about their past, just when it becomes important to know.”
Published by Cubefarm Publishing, “The Grey Cat” has been endorsed by Ita Buttrose and Alzheimer’s Australia’s Glenn Rees and Doris Younane.
“When I’d finished, I thought, as an unpublished author: ‘I’m going to need some help getting this noticed’, and so I thought Alzheimer’s Australia might be interested,” he says.
“I think for some people, the fact that it’s about Alzheimer’s Disease would be of great interest, but for others it could be just a story about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. I guess it’d appeal to anyone who loves their mother.”
Toryn’s not ruling out another novel – “If I can find another story that’s as meaningful,” he says.


“The Grey Cat” is available in bookstores.

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