This weekend marks the outbreak of World War I, 105 years ago in 1914. On 2nd August the French government issued the general mobilisation order. The following day, Germany declared war on France. On 4th August, Britain in turn declared war on Germany. The stage was set for one of the bloodiest – and mostContinue reading “Going to War in 1914: French People’s Reactions to Mobilisation”
I love all the research that goes with writing historical novels, because you find out so many fascinating things. The small details are often crucial in conveying the period feel. But a lot of this research has to be discarded and can’t be used in the book, so I like to give a little flavourContinue reading “The Pneumatic Postal Service of Paris”
This is the third and final part of a series of posts that looks at the principal places in France in Overture, Book 1 in the Alouette Trilogy. The main character, Marie-Thérèse, has ambitions to be an opera singer. The story moves mainly between rural Aveyron in Southwest France and Paris, but Marie-Thérèse also spendsContinue reading “Marie-Thérèse’s France 3: Bordeaux”
This is the second part of a series of posts looking at some of the settings that Marie-Thérèse, my main character in Overture, would have known. How do you cover Paris in one blog post? I’m not even going to try. Instead, I’ll focus on a few of the places that are mentioned in theContinue reading “Marie-Thérèse’s France 2: Paris”
Today, I want to take you to some of the settings that Marie-Thérèse, my main character in Overture, would have known. In this first post, I’ll focus on Aveyron, which is one of the most rural départements (counties) of France. I live just over the border in an adjoining département, but I’m very attached toContinue reading “Marie-Thérèse’s France 1: Rural Aveyron”
At the turn of the 20th century, the world of agricultural labour in France was a patchwork of different métiers and social positions. Wherever you were on the social hierarchy, your life was governed by the tasks associated with the different seasons.
Research sometimes leads one in strange directions and comes up with surprising results. For my latest novel, I had to research the main methods of transport in France between 1897 and 1914. And I discovered something that had never occurred to me.
The odd-sounding combination of coal merchant and bistro owner was quite common in Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These establishments were usually the métier of immigrants from the Auvergne and northern Aveyron, where the poor soil made farming a thankless task.
Have you heard of Emma Calvé? I hadn’t, until I read about her in a French novel. However, she was one of the brightest stars of her time in the singing world and had a highly-acclaimed international career. Hers is a fascinating rags-to-riches-to-rags story, which has inspired my latest novel, Overture.
A sense of place in fiction is very important to me, both in my own work and in the novels I read. Some of my favourite authors, such as Hannah Kent, Helen Dunmore and Tracy Chevalier, excel at weaving the setting seamlessly into the story. Novels are about people, of course, but they are theContinue reading “Fictional Versus Real Settings in Novels”