The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

CIMG7226As soon as I learned that Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April was to be reissued as a Penguin classic, I jumped at the chance to read it. Elizabeth and her German Garden was such an engaging and entertaining read and I recall in the comments of that review so many mentions of The Enchanted April as a must read.

Elizabeth wrote The Enchanted April in a castello (an eleventh-century fortress with Roman foundations overlooking the Ligurian Sea) in Portofino, Italy, in April 1921. She had rented the place to get away from her own (sixteen bedroom) chalet in Switzerland… an extract from the Introduction by Brenda Bowen

Brenda Bowen has written a work of fan fiction, published in June 2015, one that mirrors von Arnim’s work, set in contemporary Brooklyn and Maine featuring four ladies who will rent a cottage (not castle) on Little Lost Island, Maine.

Enchanted August

One to Watch Out For, Fan Fiction

Enchanting indeed, not just the month of April, but all that made this original classic so; the villa San Salvatore (inspired by the Castello Brown pictured below) on the cliffs of Portofino overlooking the sea, the blooming buds and flowers of Spring, four weeks stretched out in front of four unaccompanied women with no social obligations, no cooking, cleaning, nothing to do but enjoy the gardens, the villa, the seascape and one minor challenge, to tolerate each others company.

They are four women who remind me of the semi-autobiographical and coolly calculating character of Elizabeth, in von Arnim’s Elizabeth and her German Garden, for though the four women in this novel sought company for this séjour on the Ligurian coast of Italy, it was purely for financial reasons, most certainly not for companionship, the first hint of von Arnim’s well-known and often quoted attitude towards visitors.

Being with strangers, they each hoped to leave that part of themselves that must always meet the expectations of others behind. Mrs Wilkins  from Hampstead was the first to see the advertisement in The Times while visiting her London club.

To Those Who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000,

The Times.

Mrs Wilkins was certain another woman her age was reading the same ad and having a similar response to it, so true to her nature (though not typical of society’s expectation of a response) she seized the initiative suggesting they rented the place together.

Her initial reluctance overcome, once the two women realised it was possible, they needed only a solution to the expense which Mrs Wilkins solved by suggesting they place another ad to attract another two like-minded female souls, thus we are introduced to the beautiful, ever charming even when she is trying not to be, Lady Caroline Dester and the somewhat disagreeable and much older Mrs Fisher.

Once ensconced in their lodgings, the four women interact and are given a well-portrayed and at times humorous glimpse into their individual characters, made all the more interesting by the fact that these women were most unlikely to have ever encountered each other within their existing social circles.

Enchanted April

Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot are pleased to have escaped their husbands, though they each harbour an underlying sadness for how things were when they were newly married. They are not aged, in their thirties, they have more the air of self-accepting middle age. However, they hadn’t reckoned on the effect of a stay at San Salvatore.

Lady Caroline just wants to be left alone, unmarried and disinclined, she detests the attention her beauty and natural charm attract. The formidable Mrs Fisher appears malcontent for no more reason than that she’s been on Earth at least twice as long as the younger women, having lost what youthful exuberance she may ever have had long ago.

‘Mrs Fisher doesn’t seem happy – not visibly anyhow,’ said Mrs Arbuthnot, smiling.

‘She’ll begin soon, you’ll see.’

Mrs Arbuthnot said she didn’t believe that after a certain age people began anything.

Mrs Wilkins said she was sure no one, however old and tough could resist the effects of perfect beauty. Before many days, perhaps only hours, they would see Mrs Fisher bursting out into every kind of exuberance. ‘I’m quite sure, said Mrs Wilkins, ‘that we’ve got to heaven, and once Mrs Fisher realises that’s where she is, she’s bound to be different. You’ll see. She’ll leave off being ossified, and go all soft and able to stretch, and we shall get quite – why, I shouldn’t be surprised if we get quite fond of her.’

Things are about to change, as the castle San Salvatore, though solid and immovable, works its way into their psyches and each will fall under the spell of the charming fortress and its healing environment over the course of their four-week stay.

I thought The Enchanted April a wonderful, evocative read and witty insight into its very English characters, enjoyable for its sense of place and the lush season it evokes, von Arnim’s natural, subtle humour that she never ceases to inject into her narratives, in this novel there is no trace of the slight cynicism of her earlier work; she has allowed her four women to indulge this fantasy through to its natural conclusion.

And oh how fulfilling that can be for the reader, I know this little stretch of Italy and it invoked pleasant memories and incited future dreams of a possible return – with three women ‘bien sûr’!

Countess Elizabeth von Arnim

Born Mary (May) Annette Beauchamp in 1866, Elizabeth von Arnim was Australian by birth, English by upbringing, German and English through marriage, Swiss and French by choice and finally American by emigration. She published 21 books in her lifetime,  books where the central female character(s) were often witty and unreserved, possessing an unusual outlook on life. A number of them, including The Enchanted April were made into films.

An appearance of the novel Elizabeth and her German Garden in a recent episode of Downton Abbey, sparked renewed interest in the works of the author. That novel was so popular when first published, it was reprinted 21 times within a year of publication.

She was the cousin and contemporary of the New Zealand/English writer Katherine Mansfield. She died in Charleston, South Carolina in 1941.

KM logoElizabeth von Arnim Conference – In an extraordinary coincidence that I just discovered, the Katherine Mansfield Society is to hold an Elizabeth von Arnim Conference, at Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge on Sept 13th 2015!

My review of Brenda Bowen’s Enchanted August.

Note: This book was an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) kindly provided by the publisher.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante tr. Ann Goldstein #FerranteFever

Those Who StayThis is the third book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy about two friends Elena and Lila, growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood of Naples.

It follows on from Book One, My Brilliant Friend and Book Two, The Story of a New Name (click on the titles to read earlier reviews).

Lila has married, had a child, reformed her husband’s business, strayed and finally separated from her husband and moved to another area outside the neighbourhood to live with Enzo, a childhood friend. She gets a job in a sausage factory, working under oppressive conditions that attract the interest of social activists and harsh threats from the ‘fascists’.

“Can you imagine what it means to go in and out of refrigerated rooms at twenty degrees below zero, and get ten lire more an hour – ten lire – for cold compensation? If you imagine this, what do you think you can learn from people who are forced to live like that?”

In Pisa, Elena has remoulded herself, no longer referring or comparing herself to Lila. She observes how people from her type of neighbourhood and class are perceived outside it, among the bourgeois, those raised within the milieu of intellectuals and achievers, those with access to money, social connections, many of whom are gifted with a presence she can only dream of. Elena finishes her university studies and becomes engaged to Pietro, who was raised within that other world; coming from a well-known academic family, he too will become a university professor, teaching and writing academic works like his father.

As she is concluding her studies, Elena writes a fictional story drawn from aspects of her past, though never admitting it is anything but fiction. She gifts the story to Pietro on an impulse, hoping he will read it. He passes the manuscript to his well-connected mother Adele, thus Elena treads the path laid in front of her, towards becoming an author. Adele introduces her to contacts that will result in her first book being published, establishing her career as a writer.

“I spoke of the necessity of recounting frankly every human experience, including – I said emphatically – what seems unsayable and what we do not speak of even to ourselves.”

Though Elena does her best to avoid it, Pietro finally meets her family and though he insists on a civil ceremony for their marriage, a decision that stuns and terribly disappoints her mother, he wishes to do the traditional thing by asking her father for her hand. Her father is calm and accepting, however her mother’s thoughts insist on an airing and she lectures the young professor unabashedly.

  “When at last she was silent, he said that he knew very well how precious I was and that he was grateful to her for having brought me up as I was.”

Through marriage, Elena succeeds in elevating herself above her roots, though finds herself stranded in not quite belonging to either her future role or her past. They are like roles she assumes outside herself, taking care not to stand out when she returns to the neighbourhood and paying attention to how she should behave in her new role as the wife of a professor.

“As soon as I got off the train, I moved cautiously in the places where I had grown up, always careful to speak in dialect, as if to indicate I am one of yours, don’t hurt me.”

However, marrying the young professor, writing the story that turns into a successful novel, moving to Florence and becoming a mother leave her little time to play any other role than that of housewife.

Lila leaves the neighbourhood, escaping her marriage and taking on a job in a sausage factory owned by a friend of Nino Sarratore, whom the girls met one summer. Her job leaves her little time to spend with her son. Unwillingly, she becomes connected with worker’s rights activists and discovers the dirty arm of the neighbourhood loan sharks who are leaning on her employer, while continuing to try to lure her back into their realm.

Lila and Elena’s worlds drift further apart and although they are aware of the need to share with the other, they each possess the instinct to soldier on without admitting their struggle or need for support or encouragement. Elena will receive both her mother-in-law and her mother at different times so that she can write and Lila will return to the neighbourhood to ease her difficulties. Both have opportunities within their reach, yet both are susceptible to self-destruction.

“Too many bad things, and some terrible, had happened over the years, and to regain our old intimacy we would have had to speak our secret thoughts, but I didn’t have the strength to find the words and she, who perhaps had the strength didn’t have the desire, didn’t see the use.”

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is a compelling story of the lives of two women and those around them, and a penetrative observation on the creation and consequence of decisions women make, how they live with those decisions and the often destructive way they bring about change. It narrates a journey of moving away from one’s origins and the sacrifice the attainment of that desire requires.

Elena leaves her past and a life she didn’t want, behind her, however in attaining a new life, she loses sight of who she really is and what drives her. She is just coming to the point of realising that when her world spins out of control. And thankfully for us all the fourth book is being translated. I expect the wheel may come full circle.

Italian Screenwriter Francesco Piccolo

Italian Screenwriter Francesco Piccolo

Note:  It has been announced that My Brilliant Friend will be made into a television series in Italy. The author/screenwriter Francesco Piccolo, winner of the esteemed Italian literary Strega Prize 2014 (with his bittersweet memoir of life on the Italian Left, ‘Il desiderio di essere come tutti’ (The Desire To Be Like Everyone) will work on the screenplay.

Next Book in the Series: The Story of the Lost Child (publication in English due Sept 2015)

Literary Blog Hop Winner of My Brilliant Friend

Thank you to everyone who participated in and entered the Literary Blog Hop to win this excellent book, My Brilliant Friend, originally written in Italian by Elena Ferrante.

My Brilliant Friend

And thank you for all the wonderful comments and book recommendations of your favourite translation or book written in a language other than English. As you can see, my TBR is growing!

My New Book Haul

And the winner of the draw is…..

Michelle Willms

Congratulations Michelle! I’ll send you an email to ask you for your address details. Please answer this by Sunday 9th November.

Thanks again to everyone who commented and participated and shared such wonderful book recommendations.

Happy Reading All!

Literary Blog Hop … Book #Giveaway

From now until Wednesday November 5th Word by Word is participating along with other international bloggers in a Literary Blog Hop Giveaway hosted by Judith at Leeswamme’s Blog, an avid reader and reviewer from the Netherlands.

literarybloghopnovember

The blog hop offers you the opportunity to win a book here and you can visit other blogs listed below, each one offering a book of literary merit as a giveaway.

Just leave a comment below to enter the draw and on Thursday 6 November I will notify the winner.  And seriously,  even if you don’t win, you must read this book!

The book is Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and the giveaway is open worldwide.

Win a copy of

My Brilliant Friend!

My Brilliant Friend

This entire series is definitely one of my Top Reads of 2014.

Elena Ferrante is an Italian author from Naples, where the books are set. We know little about her as she doesn’t accept interviews and uses a pen name, however that hasn’t prevented her books from becoming a word of mouth sensation. You can read my review of My Brilliant Friend here.

My Brilliant Friend is the story of two friends Elena and Lila growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood of Naples and their efforts to escape the inevitability of their fate, as members of a lower class community.

I found it a compelling read and loved the second book The Story of  New Name (reviewed here), as much as the first.

There are three books available in English (I’m reading Book 3 ) and a fourth book due out in 2015. (It was published in Italian on Oct 29 2014).

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment and tell me whether you have ever read a book in a language other than English, or a translated book. If you have, do you have a favourite? (1 entry)

2. Follow this blog. Mention in the comments if you already do. (2 entries)

3. Follow @clairewords on twitter (3 entries)

Then click on the links below to visit other blogs participating in the giveaway.

Make sure to visit the author Juliet Greenwood, whose two books Eden’s Garden and We That Are Left are excellent reads and also reviewed here at Word by WordClick on the titles to read the reviews.

Linky List:

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Read Her Like an Open Book (US/CA)
  3. My Book Self (N. Am.)
  4. The Book Stop
  5. My Book Retreat (US)
  6. Books in the Burbs (US)
  7. Guiltless Reading
  8. Word by Word
  9. Juliet Greenwood
  10. BooksandLiliane
  11. Words for Worms (US)
  12. The Relentless Reader
  13. The Misfortune of Knowing
  14. The Friday Morning Bookclub (US)
  15. Readerbuzz
  16. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  17. The Emerald City Book Review
  18. Wensend
  1. Laurie Here
  2. A Cup Of Tea, A Friend, And A Book (US)
  3. Moon Shine Art Spot (US)
  4. I’d Rather Be Reading At The Beach (US)
  5. Lost Generation Reader
  6. Books Speak Volumes
  7. Mom’s Small Victories (US)
  8. Books on the Table (US)
  9. Orange Pekoe Reviews
  10. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  11. Words And Peace (US)
  12. Booklover Book Reviews
  13. Inside the Secret World of Allison Bruning (US)

Note: Thank you to Daniela at Europa Editions for organising a copy of the book.

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante tr. By Ann Goldstein … Neapolitan Tetralogy Book 2

The Story of a New NameThe second in the tetralogy of books about two friends Elena and Lila, growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood of Naples. The first book My Brilliant Friend I reviewed here.

Both girls were bright students in primary school, and perhaps because the story is narrated from Elena’s perspective she often sees herself in the shadow of her friend Lila, as if she must strive to attain her success, while Lila’s comes more naturally.

Lila fights to elevate herself, suggesting Elena studies with her to help her friend, thereby attaining the knowledge herself and through imposing her will on her husband, her family and business associates, who need her input and influence which she uses to both help them and to ensure her often rebellious stance is understood by them all.

It is Elena who despite her family circumstances progresses through high school and at the suggestion of a teacher applies to a university in Pisa where she can continue her studies.

Lila whose beauty and bravado bring her more to the attention of local boys wanting to move themselves up in the world financially, becomes entangled in their schemes and part of their negotiations and is married at sixteen to Stefano the grocer, partly in order to avoid the attention of the Solara brothers.

“How difficult it was to find one’s way, how difficult it was not to violate any of the incredibly detailed male regulations.”

Through her personal notebooks that she entrusts to Elena for safekeeping and Elena’s inability to withhold from the temptation of what they offer, we too as readers understand more from within the bounds of Lila’s marriage and life than we might otherwise from the limited perspective of her friend, particularly during the frequent periods where the friendship was being tested and therefore withheld.

Though unwilling to be trapped inside marriage, Elena does envy her friend the space and luxury her new status as Signora Raffaella Carracci has given her and when Lila’s husband suggests a summer holiday on doctor’s orders to increase her chances of conceiving a child, Lila’s insistence that her friend accompany becomes Elena’s excuse to find a way to be in close proximity to Nino Sarratore, the brilliant student she has had a crush on for years. His arrival becomes a turning point in their lives, though not the outcome either of them were wishing for.

Pisa NormaleElena distances herself from Lila and from her family and moves to Pisa, where initially she struggles to brush off the ways of her neighbourhood, her origin, her accent, things that make it obvious to others she is not one of them. She throws herself into her studies and into becoming more like her contemporaries; a new boyfriend aids her transition.

“That day, instead, I saw clearly the mothers of the old neighbourhood. They were nervous, they were acquiescent. They were silent, with tight lips and stooping shoulders, or they yelled terrible insults at the children who harassed them….

They had been consumed by the bodies of husbands, fathers, brothers, whom they ultimately came to resemble, because of their labours or the arrival of old age, of illness. When did that transformation begin? With housework? With pregnancies? With beatings? Would Lila be misshapen like Nunzia?…

And would my body too, one day be ruined by the emergence of not only my mother’s body, but my father’s? And would all that I was learning at school dissolve, would the neighbourhood prevail again, the cadences, the manners, everything be confounded in a black mire,…”

Leaving Naples allows Elena to begin to reform herself, to blend in, the novel highlights the tension between the Neapolitan dialect spoken in her neighbourhood and the correct Italian spoken by the professional, educated classes. Dialect is associated with aggression, insults and anger, with all the negative emotions and difficult challenges of a repressed community, while the Italian symbolises upward mobility and refinement.

Napoletana“Be careful where all this studying leads, Lenu. Remember who you are and which side you’re on.”

I found Book 2 just as engaging as Book 1, more than just narrating the events that mould the two girls’ lives is the underlying philosophical question of whether one can rise above one’s origins via the attainment of significant wealth or education. Elena and Lila represent these twin avenues, in their attempt to escape their origins.

The novel continues to focus on the friendship of the two girls and their connections with others, both those from within their sphere and those they encounter outside, a measure of how far they have progressed in their aim to rise up and out of the confines of the neighbourhood.

The narrative is less dramatic than it might be by some of the omissions. Elena doesn’t recount much of her own dialogue with her boyfriends and much of the story is narrated or told, rather than putting the reader in the midst of the events as if to experience them. It is the psychological and philosophical elements of the placement of the two women in these situations that lend themselves a kind of accepted inevitability, we won’t be shocked by anything that happens, knowing their backgrounds, it is the lure of that question of whether either of them can or will escape their fate that entices us to read on.

Next Book in the Series: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (click title to read review)

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante tr. by Ann Goldstein…Neapolitan Tetralogy Book1

Elena Ferrante is already something of an Italian legend. An author said to spurn interviews, her pen name fuelling speculation about her real identity. Her work is said to be autobiographical and already capturing the attention of English readers in a similar way to the autobiographical series of novels by the Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Being a fan of translated fiction I have had my eye on this series for a while and from the reviews and articles I have read, her work reminds me of Caroline Smailes, whose excellent novel The Drowning of Arthur Braxton was my favourite read in 2013.

My Brilliant FriendIn 2012, My Brilliant Friend, the first in the trilogy of Neapolitan novels was translated into English and the two subsequent books The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay were published in 2013 and 2014 consecutively.

The trilogy follows the lives and friendship of Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo, two astute girls from a downtrodden suburb slum of post war  1950’s & 1960’s Naples, as they navigate the challenges and opportunities necessary to survive and overcome their upbringing.

My Brilliant Friend spans Elena and Lila’s childhood and adolescence years in their neighbourhood, one where aggression, tension and feuds reign and graduating from school is less of a priority than finding safety and protection from the inhabitants of their immediate environment.

The first pages begin with the naming of characters, a family tree of the neighbourhood, members of each family and their occupations. I often find these lists of characters overwhelming, so ignored them, telling myself, if the book is good, I’ll know who all these characters are by the end. And when I went back to look at it, sure enough, I knew who they all were.

The story then begins with a prologue when the girls are women in their mid-fifties and creates a mystery that won’t be resolved in the first book, as the girls only reach the age of sixteen by its conclusion. It intrigues and teases the reader to continue to read on and discover what it is Elena knows, that no one else does.

“It’s been at least three decades since she told me that she wanted to disappear without leaving a trace, and I’m the only one who knows what she means.”

A Naples Slum

A Naples Slum

Elena is angry and so begins to write this narrative, in an act of revenge-like competitiveness, a trait that has defined her relationship with Lila throughout their childhood and adolescence.

Narrated from the point of view of Elena, the girls first recollection of being together is around the fearful presence of Don Achille, the local grocer whose name is associated with a fairy tale ogre.

In their play, Lila’s actions are always decisive and with bold intent, Elena is less bold, yet more determined, she follows her friend but wishes to surpass her and learns how to cope with the sacrifices necessary to continue to be her friend. Starting with the day Lila dropped her doll through the street grating into a dark underground cellar.

“But that day I learned a skill at which I later excelled. I held back my despair, I held it back on the edge of my wet eyes, so that Lila said to me in dialect:

‘You don’t care about her?’

I didn’t answer. I felt a violent pain, but I sensed that the pain of quarrelling with her would be even stronger. I was as if strangled by two agonies, one already happening, the loss of the doll, and one possible, the loss of Lila.”

After her early years of passing well her exams, there is one year when Elena’s attention strays and as a result her parents are no longer willing to support her in school. They won’t pay for extra tuition but if she studies and resits the exams, they will allow her to continue.

Lila, who never fails, will have to leave school, regardless of her ability, her family isn’t willing to support her education. She has a hunger for education and follows Elena’s progress, increasing her knowledge, surpassing her friend, becoming more like her teacher, though never sitting another exam.

“She had begun to study Greek even before I went to high school? She had done it on her own, while I hadn’t even thought about it, and during the summer, the vacation? Would she always do the things I was supposed to do, before and better than me? She eluded me when I followed her and meanwhile stayed close on my heels in order to pass me by?”

Snapshot 1 (09-11-2012 17-25)

Friendship by Allia

The book ends with a wedding, the girls paths seem to be heading in different directions, they continue to navigate their lives according to the expectations and threats of their community, yet their paths, in their different ways, potentially hold the seeds of their escape.

My Brilliant Friend is an emotionally charged coming-of-age read and the story held me riveted all the way through from the prologue that isn’t resolved through their early schooldays up to that wedding day.

Ferrante’s depiction of the two girls friendship bristles with vulnerable authenticity, igniting our curiosity in their interactions with their community, making the reader care about what will happen to them all next.

Next Book in the Series: The Story of a New Name (click title to read review)

A Piece of the Mosaic

Thank you to inspirational talent Kimberly Sullivan who lives in Rome and has written ‘In the Shadow of the Apennines’ set in the mountains of Abruzzo. She tagged me in the ‘Be Inspired’ blog hop hosted by ‘Page After Page’:

All of our stories come from somewhere, whether it be a dream, another book, a life event…So, I thought why not give people the chance to talk about their inspirations as well as their stories?

To participate, I should answer 10 questions about my novel and then tag 5 writer’s:

1. What is the name of your book?

‘A Piece of the Mosaic’

2. Where did the idea of your book come from?

It started with a prompt in a creative writing class at the Groucho Club in Soho; the tutor asked us to spend 5 minutes writing about a character. It was the scariest part of the class, that compulsory, time limited plunge into the unknown with others furiously scribbling away.

Paralysed, I had a vision of the back of a young man standing on a pier smoking a cigarette, gazing out to sea . He was wearing black trousers and a black leather jacket, observed by two schoolgirls giggling on a bench. After the class finished, I could not get that man out of my head.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?

I hate labels, I hope this book crosses as many genres as possible, but if I had to guess I would say it is contemporary, cross cultural fiction.

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?

I don’t know any current Italian actors, so I would suggest a young man of Mediterranean origin to play Alfredo and because this question is too hard, I’m going to adapt it and say I dream of music composed by Ennio Morricone and the film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore director of Cinema Paradiso and Ba’aria. Authentic it must be.

5. Provide a brief synopsis.

Alfredo’s home village – Liguria

Angry with his father after his mother’s death, young Italian chef Alfredo, abandons the fishing village he has lived in all his life and travels to England, eventually finding a job in the seaside town on the South Coast. In return for low rent, he agrees to an unorthodox request from his spinster landlady Claudette, to help her find the sister she has not seen for 30 years since she and her husband immigrated to New Zealand.

Alfredo discovers more than a long-lost sister and the search soon becomes his own, to find Claudette’s niece Amber; the journey leading him towards everything he has tried to avoid in order to learn the truth.

6. Is your book already published/represented?

The synopsis and first three chapters have been read by 3 agents in London, with encouraging responses but declining representation and the full manuscript was requested by the fiction editor at Penguin NZ, who enjoyed it and suggested I seek representation in the UK.

 In order to establish some credibility with my writing, I decided to write a blog before I send it out again, so here I am blogging away, sharing my passion for the written word.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

The actual writing part probably took about a year, but I wrote it in two bursts, the first half when I lived in London and on a whim travelled to Liguria to spend a week in a fishing village imagining and writing of lives other than my own.

I finished it in the first six months of arriving in France unable to speak French – the best excuse in the world not to have a proper job and to finish a first novel.

8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or readers of which books would enjoy yours?

There are many books about people from the English-speaking world going to live in a non-English speaking country, both fiction and non-fiction, Alfredo isn’t leaving to see the world, he is escaping.  It is a story that questions identity and confronts issues of adoption and family.

I think it will appeal to people who like books that take them to places they dream of visiting and that introduce them to issues from different cultural perspectives, if anyone has any suggestions as to any other book this sounds like, let me know.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?

Two authors come to mind immediately, ironically Stephen King influenced this book, because I read his excellent slim masterpiece ‘On Writing’ midway through writing.  After reading it I changed a few things, I stopped writing longhand, I set a 1000 words/day word count (his is 2,000 words/day) and I stopped editing as I was writing, I just wrote it out until the end – terrified it would be crap, but discovered how to create pace.

The other author who spent some time residing in my subconscious was Italo Calvino, it took me a while to figure out what he wanted; now I know – but it’s a secret.

10. Tell us anything that might pique interest in your book?

Here are two extracts that survived that very first writing exercise, sitting in the Groucho Club in London, searching the recesses of my mind for inspiration.

Looking out over the swollen sea, Alfredo smiled knowingly at how her moods changed, one moment bright and sparkling in her refinery, phosphorescence glittering like sequins in the moonlight, the next as she was now, irascible, dark and brooding, like a young lover scorned, beauty transformed into bitterness. He watched a fish jump momentarily from her clutch, as if trying to escape her volatile and uncompromising mood, then witnessed the force of gravity, the sea’s ever-trusting accomplice, toss the cold-blooded vertebrae back into the maelstrom from which it had tried valiantly to escape.

He threw his half-finished cigarette into the sea and she hissed at him in reply. He had never been a regular smoker in Italy and wished he could kick the habit, cigarettes had become a comfort since he came to England, he liked to roll them as much as he liked to smoke them, it gave his hands something to do when his mind was restless. Thoughts extinguished, he walked down the length of the pier, eyes front, not looking at two giggling teenage girls to his right but sensing their eyes following his footsteps, over the wooden planks, where if one’s gaze was concentrated enough, you could see the pregnant swell of the waves below, as the tidal ebb carried them to and from the shore.

And now to tag 5 writers, all of whom are an inspiration to me:

  1. Brenda Moguez – Passionate Pursuits
    – Brenda is a prolific, unique and inspirational blogger with a rich family and personal history to draw on, not to mention a gigantic imagination, it’s just a matter of time before we will be reading her novel, now doing the rounds of agents.
  2. Juliet GreenwoodJulietGreenwoodAuthor – Juliet lives in a traditional Welsh cottage between the romantic Isle of Anglesey and the majestic mountains and ruined castles of Snowdonia, she is living the dream, a published writer and avid gardener; she is an inspiration.
  3. Patricia SandsEveryone Has a Story to Tell
    – Patricia has published a book about friendship, fun and the complexities of relationships among women, drawing inspiration from her own experiences. Every Friday she blogs about France and her current WIP (work in progress) is set here.
  4. Julie Christine Chalk the Sun
    – Julie is a Francophile, she is a reading writer, travels often and writes a fantastic book review. Just waiting for her to plunge right into writing that novel, a WWII star-crossed romance between a young French girl and a German POW, inspired by true events.
  5. Jen ThompsonChronicles of Jen
    – Jen is another writer who loves to read and shares her thoughts when she does, she’s a talented writer, lives in a caravan and is out there observing characters and seeking inspiration while serving hotdogs and popcorn. She may not be able to participate because her idea is so great, someone might steal it J
  6. Nelle NelleWritesI’m going to add one more, because I couldn’t have a list of writers without including Nelle, who not only is a great writer, but is a loyal follower and comments on all my reviews, even though her book budget is severely restricted.