Originally posted on Tales From the Landing Book Shelves:
As I promised here is Juliet Greenwood’s guest post. Picking up on my interest in the theme of growing and preparing nutritious food during the war, I asked Juliet to talk about this aspect of We That Are Left (Honno Press) and her background research. At the end of the post I’ve added the recipes that Juliet sent me. If you buy a copy of the book you will find a few more authentic recipes to try for yourselves.
The Role of Food in World War I
When I was first thinking of writing about the First World War, I knew I wanted to write about the lives of civilians, and especially the women, who moved out from being simply wives and mothers to take over the roles of the missing men at home, as well as working on the front line as ambulance drivers and nurses.
Among the many roles…
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August 4th 2014
On the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War, I find myself remembering all those ordinary families and individuals drawn into the conflict, as soldiers and civilians.
Whatever language they spoke, whatever country they lived in, all that those men and women and children wished for was what we wish for: to live our lives – our one and only life – to the best of our ability and with those we love.
May they – and their dreams – never be forgotten.
‘Your battle-wounds are scars upon my heart…’
‘I am the enemy you killed, my friend….’
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One of the highlights of this year’s RNA Conference was definitely the historical author’s event at Blists Hill, the reconstructed Victorian town at Ironbridge, the birthplace of the industrial revolution. As you can see, I went as a suffragette (what else?).
There was a great atmosphere, being there in company with so many talented historical novelists and meeting the visitors coming through on their way to experience times gone by. In a brief lull in proceedings, I took myself off to visit my favourite cottage, the squatter’s cottage.
It’s so hard to remember, even in times of recession, the reality of life for the majority of people at a time that – in terms of human evolution – is only a breath away. The squatter’s cottage, at the edges of existence outside the Workhouse, in an age before the Welfare State, is a poignant reminder of just how little our forebears had. Ten people lived in this cottage. The beds crammed together, with more than one child to each. The single change of clothes hung up. The tiny kitchen and living area. No room (let alone light) to study for the chance to escape such poverty. No privacy. No running water and the outside toilet at the bottom of the garden next to the pig stye. And always just a broken leg or a lung infection away from losing any kind of income, and the shame of the Workhouse where families were split up and might never see each other again. And yet the cottage is warm and homely, as I’m sure it would have been, crammed to bursting with the family making the most of what they had. It was also the world that shocked the recruiters of soldiers for WW1 at the appalling state of health of so many of the inhabitants of one the richest nations in the world.
The pig style and privy
I’ve been here several times before, but this time I found myself part of the exhibits. Well, I was a bit hard to miss with my extravagant hat and my ‘votes for women’ sash. The policeman on his bike was a bit uncertain meeting an unscheduled suffragette, and despite the heat peddled off rather fast, and possibly hanging on to his hat. But next to the pig stye of the squatter’s cottage I had a lively discussion on universal suffrage with a 21st century gentleman entering into the spirit of the thing. It wasn’t exactly an argument, as we both, in the end, agreed. Because, of course, all that window smashing was not where the the suffragettes began, but with the long, peaceful struggle, in the face of appalling brutality, for universal suffrage to give a voice to both men and women – and eventually even to the inhabitants of the squatter’s cottage.
I shall be wearing my hat again – and with pride!
If you would like to learn more about the squatter’s cottage (which was inhabited until the 1970s), there is an excellent blog post here. And if you would like to know more about Blists Hill Victorian Town the website is here.
The pantry – with a spot of poaching?
A window into a lost world.
STOP PRESS! The Kindle edition of ‘We That Are Left’ is currently only £1.99 – you can find the link HERE or click on the cover below.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Honno Press, Places that inspire me, Research, RNA, RNA Summer Conference, We That Are Left, Welsh Book of the Month, World War 1, Writing | Tagged Historical Fiction, Honno Press, World War 1 | 5 Comments »
I have to confess I was a little nervous before my talk about the Women of WW1 at Conwy’s lovely new bookshop, ‘Hinton’s of Conwy’. I’ve been busy concentrating on writing up to now, but I’d learnt so much while I was researching for ‘We That are Left’ that I was eager to share it. So off I went, armed with my WW1 poppy seed cake (what else), telling myself that it was a lovely sunny evening and no one would turn up, having sloped off to the beach instead, and I’d just be sitting there with a few friends eating cake.
How wrong could I be! The quiet room beneath the bookshop was packed full when I finally stood up to speak. Which was great – but did give me a brief impulse to run away! Thankfully one of the advantages of my (very brief) career as a teacher is that there’s nothing quite as scary as 30 disengaged 13 year olds on a Friday afternoon.
It’s the funny thing about research. You do so much of it, and then have to throw it to the back of your mind and hope it comes through and you get the details right. When I started researching, I came across so many things that women did, many of which were famous at the time, but have now been forgotten. They are simply not part of the familiar narrative of the war.
After the first few minutes, passion took over, and it was a great experience to be able to share so many of the roles women played, both on the front line and at home and for which there had been no time or space in the novel. I’d no idea before I began my research that women drove ambulances, set up soup kitchens on the front line, ran their own field hospitals, and picked up bodies from no man’s land between battles. It’s a different aspect of the war. At times it’s completely incongruous, and unthinkable in later conflicts, such as the Duchess of Sutherland handing in her card to German officers, and demanding answers about the conditions of British prisoners of war.
So thank you to everyone who turned up to listen. It was great to see a packed house, and to have such a fascinating discussion afterwards about the forgotten role of the brave and resourceful women of WW1.
I’m definitely fired up to do more!
On the way back, I stopped at Llanfairfechan beach, to one of the most glorious sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was quiet and peaceful, with people just enjoying the evening. A great antidote to reliving the horrors of the First World War.
And when I got home – well, I’d left ‘Eden’s Garden’ climbing the ranks as part of being the Kindle Daily Deal for that day. After the surprise of ‘We That are Left’ getting to number 4 in the kindle store a few weeks ago, I’d been determined not to get excited. This was an older book, one that had been in a promotion before.
And yet there it was, number 6 when I got home. Number 5 when I woke up the next morning.
Now that was a day to remember!
Posted in 99 pence special offer for Kindle, Best Seller Charts, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Charts, Honno Press, Kindle Edition, Literature Wales Writers' Bursary, Publicity, Recipes for We That Are Left, The Crimson Field, We That Are Left, World War 1 | Tagged 99pence offer, First World War 1914-18, Historical Fiction, Honno Press, Kindle, Literature Wales Writers' Bursary, Publicity, Recipes for We That Are Left, The Crimson Field, Welsh Book of the Month, World War 1 | 1 Comment »
Stormed up to an amazing #5 in the Kindle Store in the Kindle Daily Deal – and #1 in all its categories.
an Amazon Kindle Daily Deal – 99 pence for one day only!
Sometimes you have to run away, sometimes you have to come home.
2011 – Carys agrees, with mixed feelings, to look after her mother after a fall. This decision unsettles everything – her job, her plans, her relationship with Jack. Once home she is drawn back into village life, into her family history hidden in the attic, and into the history of Plas Eden, the ramshackle great house that was so much part of her childhood. Where, at 18 she forced herself to say goodbye to David Meredith. How will she feel when they meet again?
1898 – Ann, destitute, stands on London bridge. She remembers her last visit to London, a spoilt aristocratic bride, sure of the power of her youth and beauty. Now she is running from everything she trusted. Is the river her only option, or will the Meredith Charity Hospital hide her?
Two women struggling with love, family duty, long buried secrets, and their own creative ambitions. But over a hundred years ago, Ann left a trail, through North Wales, Cornwall and London, that may help Carys find her true path. What is the secret of the statues in the garden?
Welsh Book of the Month May 2012
Read the Welsh Books Council Review
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So much has been written about The Great War, but it has only been recently that the full of the women who kept the country going at home, and worked to save lives both on the battlefields and behind enemy lines, has been rediscovered.
If you are in Conwy on June 18th, I shall be at Hinton’s of Conwy from 7 – 9 talking about the women and civilians caught up in WW1, and the inspiration behind We That are Left. Entrance is free, and there will be refreshments, including cake inspired by the recipes of the time.
Places are limited, so please contact Jenny at ‘Hinton’s of Conwy’ Tel: 01492 582212 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It will be great to see you!
And just because there are some things an author can never quite see enough of – here’s We That Are Left in its recent promotion, at number 4 in the Amazon Kindle store. I might just mention that, too … (still pinching myself)
Posted in 99 pence special offer for Kindle, Best Seller Charts, Book signing, Cake, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Charts, Honno Press, Kindle Edition, Literature Wales Writers' Bursary, Recipes for We That Are Left, The Crimson Field, We That Are Left, Welsh Book of the Month, World War 1, Writing | Tagged First World War 1914-18, Historical Fiction, Honno Press, Literature Wales Writers' Bursary, Recipes for We That Are Left, The Crimson Field, Welsh Book of the Month, World War 1 | Leave a Comment »