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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Emily B. Scialom shares the creative work that went into her book about addiction and faith, The Watch On The Beach.

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Emily B. Scialom on The Table Read Magazine

Written by Emily B. Scialom

The Watch On The Beach

It took me two years and two months to complete ‘The Watch On The Beach’ and during that time I wrote on average just under 2,000 words per month. I had no real moment of inspiration, but instead was inspired to write a whole slew of ideas which I strung together and tentatively presented to a literary friend.

William Hartston is an incredible writer with at least 25 published works. His latest release was ‘Knock, Knock: In Pursuit of a Grand Unified Theory of Humour’ (Watkins, 2023). I will forever be grateful for the piercing insights and rare expertise which have improved five of my literary offerings thus far.

After some honest assessments from William, several parts of the novel needed rearranging: I changed the book from third person to first person and moved the main character’s suicide attempt from Chapter Eight to the very opening of the book.

Adult Themes

The resulting novel is a tale of sex, drugs and depression set predominantly in Cambridge during the turbulent year 2016. Featuring adult themes such as madness, substance abuse and suicide throughout it is an attempt to illuminate the sheer hopelessness of an unapologetic outsider who bears witness to what she believes to be the implosion of the modern world.

The narrative focuses upon the wayward existence of a 28-year-old poet called Clara Reynolds. Opening with the aftermath of her suicide attempt, the mood slowly plummets from that point onwards as she recalls the descent into her nadir. Exploring her struggles with drugs – “I gazed down the barrel of a gun called Addiction and laughed as a bullet with my name on was loaded” – and her relationships with those she shares them with are primary themes of this novel.

Many readers will surely be able to relate to the darker aspects of this sorrowful warning about the damaging nature of debauchery, hedonism and excess. After all, each of us plays a part in a patently suicidal species on a rapidly heating planet. The gap between the richest and poorest widens by the day and the social strand Clara finds herself a part of feels the consequences of economic injustice and the erosion of our future prospects more keenly than most: “It occurred to me that most of the people I knew were singing from the same hymn sheet: the forgotten souls wondering when they will be remembered, the downtrodden hoping one day to rise.”


As a reflection of my own beliefs, Clara is a young woman of some faith. Yet she practises her religion in predictably unconventional manners. Ultimately, she reaches for the light of unconditional love and finds instead endless shadow. Taking refuge in poetry as I too tend to, she feels rightly or wrongly that words are her greatest ally: “Without words I felt totally alone, yet with self-expression often came understanding.”

There are intermittent bursts of verse throughout the prose which often provide further comment on her state of mind and consciousness. Some of her thoughts may be viewed as youthful idealism, but each poetic offering tends to reveal as opposed to conceal her struggles for sanity and meaning:

“All is love

In Heaven above,

Though below

It seems not so:

Friends betray,

Lovers stray

And flowers cease to grow.”

As is common in the aftermath of a life-changing event, Clara openly questions her motives and behaviours, detailing her moral quandaries in depth and debating the calibre of her very soul: “Perhaps I had foolishly obeyed Rimbaud when he had called for the disorientation of the senses more than God when He called for righteousness from His children.”

Through observing the tumultuous nature of her inner world, with all its storm clouds and terrifying scenery, she attempts to describe the emotional rollercoaster of her youth in all its horror: “I suddenly felt as though I could face another day, maybe 10 at a push. Unfortunately there were so many more on the horizon, approaching as enemy soldiers armed with strife and expectations.”

Mental Health

In the midst of her lowest emotional point – a time when she no longer sees any joy in her tomorrows – her dearest friend, Johnny Fox, makes an impassioned speech in order to save her from suicide: “…most people spit upon genuine wisdom and seem determined to leave this world a shell of its former self. But not you. You are a rare one, the watch on the beach which makes me believe in a higher power: if God can make someone as loving, passionate, thoughtful and truthful as you then He or She or It must be a force for good.”

This passage is a reference to the watchmaker analogy, a teleological argument for the existence of God presented by William Paley. A philosopher based in Peterborough during the 18th century, Paley explained that if you found a watch on a beach you would presume that it had a designer. In expanding this to a universal level we might see the intricate mechanisms of the world as having originated from the divine.

Adhering to my personal experiences, Clara ventures into her local church repeatedly only to be confronted by a tribe she intuitively felt is not her own: “The polite conversations over tea and biscuits were as far removed from the blood and wailing of the crucifixion as it was possible to be, but still the sacred thread which connects all things held firm.”

With mentions of the crisis in the Middle East – “the sorrows and insanities which had taken place in the region that Christ called home since His time there could only reinforce the arguments of the atheists” – as well as gun crime, political upheaval, the rise of fascism and the ongoing battle for equality this is an impassioned cry for a better, more just world.

Find more from Emily B. Scialom now:




Instagram: @ebscialom

Twitter: @emilybsci1

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