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!