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.Continue reading
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 the product of their environment and culture, so the setting is an indispensable part of the story.
But should you write about real places or make them up? There is no right answer. Both of those alternatives have pros and cons.
“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”
“We stood around for a bit, smoking and taking the occasional pull from the bottle. A couple of their men spoke English but no one said much. We were just a group of lads hanging about. We could have been anywhere. That’s what struck me. These Fritzes were ordinary people with parents, sisters, brothers, wives, sweethearts back home. Just like us. Exchange uniforms and you wouldn’t have noticed the difference. And yet up till now we’d been trying to thump each other into the ground. It made me think.”
‘Bertie’s Buttons’, short story in French Collection: Twelve Short Stories
Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2018, all rights reserved.
Today marks the anniversary of D-Day, 6th June 1944, the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. Down here in SW France, the weather is equally damp today, but perhaps not quite as cold and windy as it was on that significant day back in 1944. The decision to go or not to go that Eisenhower had to make must rank as one of the most difficult in history. Continue reading
In most Western nations, the practice of backstreet abortion has virtually disappeared now that abortion has been legalised. I don’t intend to open a debate here about the moral issues, but rather to look at the historical background, especially in France. Continue reading
To celebrate my 20 years in France, I’ve decided to publish a collection of a dozen of my short stories. They are all linked by being set in France, many of them in the southwest region, where I live. This part of France has rich and varied landscapes and a strong tradition of separatism and independence. Continue reading