I’m delighted to post the cover of my new novel, out in January 2020 from Ballantine Books. For readers of the Clara Vine series, it will be different, because it’s a standalone, but somewhat familiar too. It’s a split time narrative set between the present day, and tumultuous years between 1936 and 1945. It was conceived at a time of political turbulence, with Brexit in the UK and the election of a controversial president in the US, when, for first time in decades, political choices divided families and set friends against neighbours. That idea of ideological rifts bitter enough to separate families ignited my story of two sisters, Irene and Cordelia Capel, who follow very different paths in the run up to WWII. Irene marries a rich German and lives in Berlin, Cordelia becomes a journalist in Paris. Both of them face great moral choices, which are not easy or obvious, and the reverberations of those choices stretch into the present day. Love, espionage and war. And a typewriter!
I’m a huge quiz fan, so I’m much looking forward to taking part in the Oxford Literary Festival’s book quiz. It’s good humoured, rather than cut throat, and tickets are still available…https://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2019/april-3/festival-literary-quiz
And on the last weekend in June I’ll be at the Felixstowe Festival, talking about Clara Vine and the Nazi wives, as well as my new novel, The Words I Never Wrote. It would be lovely to see you there!
So it’s almost here. I’m in the last meticulous, but nerve shredding moment of publishing, reviewing the uncorrected galley proofs for my new standalone novel from Ballantine. It’s quite emotional for me, editing this novel, for a number of reasons (of which more later). But plunging back into the worlds of its two protagonists, Irene and Cordelia, is glorious, and I think it’s going to be a wrench to leave them. The story alternates between the present and the period between 1936 and 1945, and it ranges from New York, to London, Berlin and Paris. It follows the story of two sisters, amid love, espionage and war. And at its core is a heart-rending moral dilemma. I hope you’re going to enjoy it and I’ll post the publication date as soon as I have it….
One part of Autumn I love is the plethora of literary festivals. There’s nothing better than breaking out of writing confinement to talk for an hour to a captive audience. Future events include:
20th September: Riverside Book Circle, Sunbury.
29th September: Cranbrook Literary Festival www.cranbrookliteraturefestival.com
October 1st: interviewing Louis de Bernieres at the Henley Literary Festival
October 5th: interviewing Sebastian Faulks at the Wimbledon Bookfest
October 17th: Spies, Seduction and the SS at the Surrey WI literary lunch
If you’re having a relaxing summer break, lying back on a sun-lounger and contemplating what to read, what better place to transport yourself than the grimy, dangerous, nerve-shredding mean streets of prewar Berlin? All five of the Clara Vine novels are in the Kindle summer sale, each for just 99p. Get them while you can – who knows how long summer will last?
In Berlin last week, I dropped into the Altes Nationalgalerie to see Caspar David Friedrich’s famous Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. I’ve always loved this image of a figure seen from behind, gazing beyond the abyss to a distant peak. It’s often seen as the perfect representation of the Sublime in art, created at a moment of high Romanticism, portraying the individual contemplating the awesome power of Nature. The solitary individual stands on a precipice, facing an unknown future. Then it dawned on me that the lone figure, seen from behind, facing distant dangers, remains a pretty popular image – if only on the jacket of numerous novels, including, it must be said, Faith and Beauty and Solitaire. Never let it be said Clara Vine is not Romantic.
I’m booking a number of events this Autumn, but here’s one for anyone who finds themselves in Kent on September 29th!
All Winter I’ve been engaged in an intense, head-down finishing of my standalone novel, provisionally titled The Typewriter, much of it set around the Battle for Berlin in 1945. At last I’ve come up for air and I now have a busy Spring of bookshop events. The very talented David Young, author of the Karin Müller detective series, set in Cold War Germany, and I will be talking about Spies, Seduction, the SS and the Stasi, and the many ways in which Berlin inspires our fiction. There are a number of events to come, but the first are:
7pm, February 21st: The Pitshanger Bookshop,141 Pitshanger Lane, London, W5.
6.30pm, March 1st: Haslemere Bookshop, 2 Causewayside, High Street, Haslemere GU27 2JZ
7pm, March 7th: Warwick Books,24 Market Place, Warwick, Warwickshire CV34 4SL
April 19th: Crawley Wordfest, Crawley Library, Southgate Avenue, Crawley
Do come along – it would be great to meet, talk and of course sign books!
And here’s where it all started – Winterfeldtstrasse 35 – Clara Vine’s Berlin apartment in Schöneberg as it looks today…
One of the most amazing moments for a writer is seeing her book in a foreign translation. Beside the fact that it’s always a bit unbelievable, there’s the mystery of what a foreign readership will make of it, and how good the translation will be (and indeed how you’ll ever know if it’s a good translation). Philippe Bonnet, who has translated previous Clara Vine novels, is always fulsomely praised by French readers so I’m thrilled he has worked on Faith and Beauty, which is out in France in February. The other great pleasure is seeing how foreign publishers visualise the jackets, and I love this one from J.C.Lattès. Also just out is Kedros’s Greek edition of The Winter Garden, with a very seductive take on Clara Vine…
I’m thrilled that The Pursuit of Pearls became a #1 bestseller in its category on Amazon.com after a promotion! To celebrate, here’s a 1939 day dress of the kind Clara Vine wears. Note in the background the dramatic white pillars that were erected on Unter den Linden in 1936. The dress appears in a wonderful exhibition of everyday life in 1937 at the Markisches Museum in Berlin – well worth a visit.