Marie-Thérèse’s Playlist from ‘Overture’

The Opéra Comique in Paris, where Marie-Thérèse hears her idol Emma Calvé (a real-life opera singer) for the first time

Overture, my latest novel, is all about music: a young woman’s struggle against her humble origins and lack of formal training to become a professional singer. I am very fond of listening to, playing and singing music, and so it was a treat for me to write a book in which music is a key theme.

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Marie-Thérèse’s France 1: Rural Aveyron

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 to the landscapes and villages of Aveyron, which is named after the river that flows through it.

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The Life of an Agricultural Labourer in France in 1900

Market place in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, which had several large monthly agricultural fairs at one time. The fountains are a 21st century addition.

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.

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Emma Calvé: Forgotten Singing Star of the Belle Epoque

 Emma Calvé, Wikimedia Commons, SIP 89-12, by Reutlinger

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

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