How my book came to be written

 

Mum and me2

Mum and me.

“Shadows on the Grass” came out as an e-book in January and after the first flurry of excitement, there’s time now to sit back and reflect on the whole process.

This book has taken many, many years to write. Not because I am a slow writer, quite the opposite in fact, but because it started out life in a very different form.

Back in the day I was interested in writing historical novels, I was also, at more or less the same time, researching my family history.

My parents came to England after WWW2 and settled in a country that was totally foreign to them. Because at that time Poland was behind the Iron Curtain they had very little contact with any of their relatives and neither did we. Curious to know more about my family background I began asking questions and listening to the stories my mother told about her childhood.

Some of this material was incorporated in the original version of “Shadows on the Grass” a long shambling novel that had no real centre, or any particular theme. I remember finishing it one snowy December day and rewarding myself with a glass of vodka, then putting the manuscript away in the box along with all the research I had done on Polish history.

Of course what I should have done was to get feedback and start on the next draft, but somehow I had lost impetus. Life got in the way and it wasn’t until some years later that I took it out again, decided there was something in what I had written and decided to give it another go.

The first thing that went was the structure. Instead of following a chronological narrative, I went for a series of flash backs so that the story of the Dzierzanowski family would be told through the view point of three main characters. Grandmother, mother and daughter. And so a theme emerged, the relationship between the three of them became the focus of the book.

I have always been fascinated by how the generations interact, in particular mothers with their daughters. This pivotal relationship in a woman’s life can give her the confidence to grow into her own person, or prove incredibly destructive.

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Mum at ninety

 

In my own case I was lucky. My mother was a nurturing parent who was only concerned to do the best for her children and we’ve all grown up as fairly well-adjusted people. I hope I’ve done the same for my children, but other people I have known have not been so fortunate.

In “Shadows on the Grass” seventeen year old Kate is a rebellious teenager who both loves and despises her ever patient mother, Hannah. Who in her turn is struggling with her feelings for her mother Mimi and trying to find her way in a foreign country where she feels she will never quite belong.

The paperback is now available and if you would like a copy of either format here’s the Amazon LINK

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Ash Wednesday (extract from Sussex Tales (c) )

A perfect Ash Wednesday Piece

Jan Edwards

Ash Wednesday  by Jan Edwards

I slowed by the small shaw that separated our lane from the main farm road,  dropped my bike on the verge and surveyed the woodland’s edge. Fortunately for me this section of frith[1] had yet to be cleared and there were plenty of saplings to be raided. I jumped across the ditch and grabbed onto a young ash standing proud from the mass. It took only a moment or two to select a couple of growing tips; slender and smooth and grey, their foliage still encased in cool black buds that looked for all the world like the hooves of tiny goats.

I tucked both sprigs into my bag and knotted the string carefully. Losing them was not an option. It was Ash Wednesday, when every Sussex school child would arrive at the gates armed with the Ash. These short lengths of twig were…

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Declaring Independence – celebrating independent book shops: Belgravia Books

The more independent bookshops there are , the better.

From First Page to Last

In what I hope will be a new, though granted likely to be rather sporadic, Friday feature, I want to highlight some of the many independent book shops that are out there waiting to be discovered. Whilst there are the usual online book retailers and big name high street shops there are also some wonderful independent bookshops with a treasure trove of literary delights to uncover. There is nothing quite like browsing in a book shop, seeing the books, being able to actually look at them before deciding and of course the booksellers and owners are often a mine of information, a much underused resource.

The sad thing is that unless they are used they will vanish from our towns and villages. The childhood (and to be fair, grown up) delight of visiting a book shop and being able to sit amongst so many books, deciding which new unearthed treasure…

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#Friday Favourites: War in the Val d’Orcia by Iris Origo

War in Val d'Orcia

 

I’d never heard of this book or the author and am indebted to my friend Heather for introducing me to both.  Looking at the title and reading “An Italian Diary 1943-1944” I was half inclined to leaving it on my to-be-read pile. I’ve read enough harrowing accounts of war not to be particularly inclined to start on another, but there was something about Italian landscape on the cover which drew in me.

I was also intrigued to read that the book was a factual account of those years and had been hidden buried in tin boxes along with the writer’s jewellery to hide it from the retreating German army.

Reading a diary, the expectation is of an emotional life laid bare. “War in the Val d’Orcia” is not like that. The style is sparse, very matter of fact. Talking about a very sick young man Iris Origo writes

“We discuss what is best for him. What he needs is proper nursing at the clinic, but he is at the crossroads, the first place the Germans would search. In the end we decide to leave him where he is.

“And so I go to bed, my heart full of the murdered workmen and the young partisan, who soon must die.”

If this sounds dry, then it belies the courage it took to harbour wounded soldiers, escaped prisoners as well as over twenty refugee children, all the time knowing that if they were caught Iris and her husband could be shot. But even though they had two very young daughters they felt they could not abandon anyone who came to them for help. Together Iris and her husband, Antonio, fed, clothed and interceded with the Germans on behalf of desperate people, who had nowhere else to turn.

Throughout it all, Iris is conscious of how the Italians are being perceived by the rest of the allies and is keen to put the record straight. This and the history of that part of WW2 was new to me.

Shadows On The GrassAlthough I had a lot of research into that period for “Shadows on the Grass” I knew next to nothing about the war in southern Europe. I had no idea, for example,  about the number of political factions and their various stances on surrendering to the allied forces, or continuing to fight with their Nazi allies, nor of the complete exhaustion of the general population who could only hope that the long drawn out campaign would soon be over.

The book was a fascinating insight into a short period of history. More diaries have recently been discovered and I look forward to reading them too.

Thank you Heather.