GREENVILLE — There is a reason William Shakespeare envisioned Romeo and Juliet as young teens. Girls of the time did, indeed, often marry and bear children at 15 or even younger.
But it’s possible the Bard was considering another factor when he penned the words, “See how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek!” Maybe he was remembering the loves of his own youth, channeling that blind, heart-enveloping passion that is the purview only of the very young.
First love, after all, is the love that inspires and destroys, that sets the stage for all of life’s acts that follow.
It is within this pubescent maelstrom that former Greenville resident Jackie Bradley’s novel, “Postcards in the Attic” takes form. Set in 1950s small town America — a town, Bradley says, that was inspired by her years in Greenville — the novel tells the tale of Lizzie Kerrigan and her high-school sweetheart, Johnny Rochester.
Told from a decidedly feminine perspective, “Postcards” examines sensuality, love, sex and the moral codes of the decade of Truman and Eisenhower, when conformity was virtue; when there were “good girls” and “bad girls” and not much in-between. A time, to quote the author, when people were “worried about the H-Bomb, not the F-bomb.”
Though an experienced writer — Bradley penned a newspaper humor column in the 1970s and ‘80s and has written numerous feature articles — this is her first novel.
“Everyone wants to write the Great American Novel,” Bradley says. “I was going to do it 20-some years ago, but went through an ambush divorce. I was going to write about that, but was afraid of getting sued.”
Instead, Bradley’s dreams of authoring something more substantial than a weekly newspaper column were returned to the back burner. In the interim, while working as a medical technician, she found time to advance her musical career, recording and promoting several CDs of easy listening piano music.
The idea of a book was mostly forgotten until the day her grandson ventured into her attic.
“He had gone up to the attic to search for a treasure chest,” Bradley says. “But there was nothing up there but a dead mouse and two postcards.”
Those postcards, dated 1955, were from her then-boyfriend, sent to Bradley from his camp while on a fishing trip to Canada.
From this inconsequential beginning, “Postcards in the Attic” grew. Much of the book centers around the music of the time, when Top 40 ruled the airwaves and the soundtrack to every teen’s life was rife with Elvis, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison.
Much of that music Bradley has recreated on piano for the CD that accompanies each book.
“There are a lot of references to the songs the (novel’s) couple love to listen to while making out in the basement,” Bradley says. “The book goes through three years of high school, the couple’s romance; it’s just vignettes through to the end of the book.”
Now residing in Madison, Wis., the Michigan native says she has been getting “a little flack” from childhood friends who have read her book and knew her as a student at Greenville High School.
“One (friend) emailed me and said, ‘I never knew you lived to make out,’” Bradley says. “I told her this is fiction, but it is based on growing up in Greenville, the morals of that time, and the conflicts those morals put on kids. Teenagers still have those feelings, but they’re living in a different world right now.”
Bradley will be signing her book and CD at Robbins Book List in Greenville from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 30. According to Robbins’ manager Kevin Powell, advanced interest in Bradley’s visit has been strong.
“I know a lot of people are really excited to have Jackie coming to Greenville,” Powell said. “It should be a wonderful turnout.”
“Postcards in the Attic” is by turns humorous, thought-provoking and heart-rending. With her fledgling novel, Bradley strikes a chord that will no doubt resonate within the heart of anyone who remembers “duck and cover” exercises, the Kennedy assassination and The Big Bopper.
But the overriding essence of the book, the exhilaration and torment of young love, is as timeless now as it was the day young Juliet lay dying in her lover’s arms.