Every village in France has its war memorial, the lists of names a sad litany of those “morts pour la France”. The longest rollcall by far is that of World War I. Few families were spared the tragedy of deaths, sometimes multiple, injuries and enduring mental scars. More than a century later, the memory still echoes down the years.
Today marks the anniversary of the armistice, which took effect at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The physical war was largely over, but the work to count the costs and resolve the effects of this war to end wars had only just begun.
Ever since I learned about World War I at school and studied the poems of the war poet Wilfred Owen, World War I has held a poignant resonance for me.
So it’s no accident that I chose to publish my collection of stories inspired by and set in France, French Collection: Twelve Short Stories, on this day in 2017.
The 12 stories include three set during World War I, and one that takes place in World War II, a small tribute to those who lived, suffered and died in these wars:
Angel Maker: Arlette’s sweetheart leaves their peaceful village in the depths of Southwest France to go off to war in August 1914, leaving her with a dilemma that she must solve in his absence.
Bertie’s Buttons: Bertie Connolly writes home to his parents in England and tells them of a strange happening on Christmas Eve 1914, when men of both sides left their trenches to meet each other in peace in no-man’s land.
Remembrance: the ghost of a soldier is trapped on the battlefield where he died, held by the memory of one of his comrades, now a very elderly man. Can his comrade finally let him go?
The Sovereign: a little Jewish boy is given sanctuary in a farmhouse in Southwest France during World War II. He has difficulty settling, misses his old life in Paris and resents his necessary change of name. The woman who shelters him finds an unusual way to bring him around.
Not all of the stories are set in wartime. Most of them are historical, while a few are set in the present day. Some are lighthearted; others have a touch of the supernatural.
All are inspired by the history, culture and landscapes of France, where I have lived for more than 20 years.
“The characters are so well-drawn that the reader comes to know and care about them in a matter of a few short pages.” BookMuse
“The author’s immersion in the culture, history and soul of France shines through in every story, whether it’s set in the past or present, the physical or ghost worlds.” Amazon reviewer
“This collection of stories set in France is beautifully written, and although each story is short, they are absorbing and cleverly crafted.” Goodreads reviewer
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