Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

chanels riviera.jpgTitle: Chanel’s Riviera

Author: Anne de Courcy

Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Hachette/Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Published: 11th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 291

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Bestselling social historian Anne de Courcy reveals the glamour and grit of the Second World War on the French Riviera

Far from worrying about the onset of war, in the spring of 1938 the burning question on the French Riviera was whether one should curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor. Few of those who had settled there thought much about what was going on in the rest of Europe. It was a golden, glamorous life, far removed from politics or conflict.

Featuring a sparkling cast of artists, writers and historical figures including Winston Churchill, Daisy Fellowes, Salvador Dali, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Eileen Gray and Edith Wharton, with the enigmatic Coco Chanel at its heart, CHANEL’S RIVIERA is a captivating account of a period that saw some of the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the whole of the twentieth century.

From Chanel’s first summer at her Roquebrune villa La Pausa (in the later years with her German lover) amid the glamour of the pre-war parties and casinos in Antibes, Nice and Cannes to the horrors of evacuation and the displacement of thousands of families during the Second World War, CHANEL’S RIVIERA explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur elite in the 1930s and 1940s. Enriched with much original research, it is social history that brings the experiences of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life.

~*~

1938 Europe was awash with the rise of Nazism, the threat of war, and the unsettled nature of the European continent. Yet at the same time, there was a section of society living along the Riviera in France – for a time, untouched by Nazism, where the biggest concern was whether to curtsey for the wife of the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated two years earlier to marry her. This latter world was that of Coco Chanel, and a wide, and varied cast of artists, people involved in fashion, an d many others for whom, until the German occupation of France, and Vichy’s increasing anti-Semitic laws in the 1940s, war was not a reality. Until the worlds of luxury and terror clashed, nobody thought much of the threat facing people in other parts of France or Europe. Chanel was focussed on her fashion designing, and fashion house. She did not appear to care that rights were being cut down for Jews, despite employing them and claiming to have Jewish friends, there was evidence to suggest she was anti-Semitic and later in the war, she was spied on under suspicion of collusion with the German side. Yet evidence for this is inconclusive and could never been proven by French and English spies and investigators.

For Chanel, the interruption of war was an economic inconvenience for her fashion house and empire, rather than the completely traumatic upheaval it was for the rest of society. She was put out by the fact that she had to shut her business down and move out of her apartments at the Ritz, which, when she returned later, she found overrun by Germans and this led to the suspicions that she was working with them. One possibility – based on her view that she was merely economically inconvenienced in my reading – was that her meeting with Churchill towards the end of the war was motivated by her desire to simply get back into business. That does not exclude any other motivations or her collaboration with the Nazis as a spy. Economy is one possibility for why she did what she did – but it should not be a reason to excuse her views either. However, as De Courcy mentions, it may never be known what her true motivations were, even if there is proof of her anti-Semitism and Nazi connections, which aren’t really touched on in this book too much, as it is more of a history of the Riviera during the 1930s and 1940s  than a biography of Chanel herself. Still, it is important to remember that she was an anti-Semite and she was a Nazi supporter and spy. Looking further into Chanel herself will reveal more about this for those interested.

This is not just about Coco Chanel though, nut she appears throughout and not in the most flattering light, given she was a Nazi supporter and spy.  It is more about the social fabric that made the Riviera the place it was before and during World War Two, the people who lived on the Cotê d’Azur, and the elite world they lived in – far removed from the realities of what most people were dealing with. But as the threat of war and war itself progressed, these people found themselves at threat, running and hiding until the war was over, keeping their art and literature away from the Nazis. In some cases, those with Jewish heritage did what they could to hide that heritage, often at great cost or pain to themselves and their families. But the fear and knowledge of what could happen made people desperate.

It was a dark time in European history, and a time filled with contradictions, where the French under the German rule found subtle, subversive ways to rebel against the rules imposed upon them. If they could not wear the French standard as it was, they found ways to wear all three colours together, so that each looked innocuous but really, they were making a point – and nothing could be done. Overall, it is quite a complex book, with many individuals and events creating the environment that went dead for the duration of the war but was lively again following liberation and the end of the war. It shows a society that was at first so far removed from war, they didn’t think about what might happen until it affected them. In a lavishly rich society, these people were cushioned and protected to some extent by their belief that France wouldn’t fall, that war would not touch them. History certainly tells a different story, and the idyllic Riviera would be changed for a time, and those who lived there altered as well.

May 2019 Round Up

I managed to read fifteen books in May, so I’m still keeping my monthly average. Of these, about 11 were by Australian women – one was for work, so I haven’t reviewed it, but have reviewed all the others, and some of the reviews were published in June, as I finished the books as the month of May ended, and I didn’t have time to get to the reviews between everything else.  I am slowly getting there with my other challenges, and hope to have much more progress on them very soon. My book bingo is progressing, and all my posts are ready to go up to much later in the year.

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writers

  1. Life Before by Carmel Reilly – Reviewed
  2. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green – Reviewed
  3. The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley – Reviewed
  4. The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  5. Lintang and The Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss – Reviewed
  6. The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  7. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin – Reviewed
  8. Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee – Reviewed
  9. Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  10. Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  11. Mermaid Holidays by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019:
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads:
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title: Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo,
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover:99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore:Mermaid Holidays by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas
  13. A book published posthumously: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie:
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title:
  17. A book set on college or university campus: Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors:
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire:
  29. A book with LOVE in the title:
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title:The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter:Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl
  36. A ghost story:
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game:
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale:

2017 – A steampunk book:

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book:
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season),The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green (parts are set during Autumn)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters: Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom:
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

#Dymocks52Challenge

General/#Dymocks52Challenge

60. Life Before by Carmel Reilly

61. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip

62. Upside Down Magic #5: Weather or Not by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins

  1. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green
  2. The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley
  3. The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn
  4. Squidge Dibley Destroys the School by Mick Elliott
  5. Lintang and The Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss
  6. Alfie takes Action by Karen Wallace
  7. The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) by Yvette Poshoglian
  8. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin
  9. Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee
  10. Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands by Emily Rodda
  11. Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain by Emily Rodda
  12. Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
  13. Mermaid Holidays by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas

BINGO!

Book Bingo

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Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book:

Row Two:

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

Row Five: Bingo

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Row Six: Bingo

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  –

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you:

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Themes of justice:What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019          

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Row Five:

Prize winning book:

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

May Round Up – 15

 

Title Author Challenge
Life Before Carmel Reilly General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019

 

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle Sophie Green General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar

 

The Monster Who Wasn’t T.C. Shelley General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Lintang and The Pirate Queen Tamara Moss General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant Kayte Nunn General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Squidge Dibley Destroys the School Mick Elliott General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Alfie Takes Action Karen Wallace General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) Yvette Poshoglian General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
As Happy as Here Jane Godwin General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – published 23rd July
Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – read in May, review posted June
Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – read in May, review posted June
Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – read in May, review posted June
Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Mermaid Holidays Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar

#AWW2019 – Due out 2nd July 2019, review to be posted then,

 

The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

lost magician.jpgTitle: The Lost Magician

Author: Piers Torday

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

Publisher: Quercus

Published: 7th May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: ‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’ The new spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of THE LAST WILD trilogy.

‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’  The new spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of THE LAST WILD trilogy.

  1. They have survived the Blitz, but when Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry step through a mysterious library door, it is the beginning of their most dangerous adventure yet. They discover the magical world of Folio, where an enchanted kingdom of fairy knights, bears and tree gods is under threat from a sinister robot army.

The many stories of the Library are locked in eternal war, and the children’s only hope is to find their creator – a magician who has been lost for centuries.

What they find will change not just their own lives, but the fate of the world, for ever …

An ode to the world of NARNIA, THE LOST MAGICIAN is a classic in the making from one of the UK’s most talented children’s authors. 

~*~

For generations, stories like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis have captured the imagination of children and adults alike. In the decades since, we have had Philip Pullman’sHis Dark Materials trilogy, J.K. Rowling’sHarry Potter series and The Inkworld books by Cornelia Funke. Many authors are indebted to early fairy tale traditions and the golden age of Children’s Literature of the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, and indeed, Narnia and C.S. Lewis. And here, in The Lost Magician, we have a tribute to reading, readers and those other worlds that so many of us spent our childhoods exploring long into the night, beyond our bedtimes because finding out what happened next simply could not wait.

As a child, it was the above books and many others that formed me and that I was drawn to. The stories where the heroes went on adventures, or where the characters got caught up in things they could never even imagine, like the Pevensie children and like Meggie. So what would happen when the elements of a door to a new world (Narnia), living stories (Inkheart), the requisite siblings and the backdrop of war or the end of war were combined with a secret mission, present in some of the most well-known spy stories? Well, that’s where The Lost Magician comes in, marrying all these elements into the start of a new series revolving around the world of Folio, where stories new and old live.

In the first book, they are divided into three factions: The Reads, The Unreads and The Never Reads when the four Hastings siblings are sent to Barfield after the war while their parents search for a new home in London after theirs is destroyed. Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry – aged between eight and fourteen – find themselves in a strange house for the summer, with an unusual attic library that takes them into a new world, where they find out that the stories they know well are under attack from the army of the Never Reads, led by Jana, a woman made of glass and her robotic army, who seek to purge the world of stories and only allow facts to live.

Much like Narnia, it is a quest-story, where the main characters have to save world at war, after living through a war in their own world and carrying their own scars. Whilst some elements mirror those from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, there are many differences that make this its own story in its own right. The elements of a future yet to come that Evie is taken with when she first arrives will threaten what she knows and loves – and she will question why the world has to have one or the other – and the siblings must also search for a lost magician, missing for centuries. Will they find him? Or will his story be woven into future books?

I loved this book, and will be keen to revisit it at some stage, and look forward to future books in the series, to see where this goes, and the differences it will have to its predecessors. What else will the world of Folio offer us?

April Round Up

In April, I read twenty-three books, and added to most of my challenges. No updates for my Jane Austen Challenge this month, but I am working on it. I have read 60 books towards my overall challenge and the #Dymocks52Challenge, and I’m at 28 books for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – 29 if I include my first read for May. I have completed most of my reads for my book bingo challenge and have scheduled all those posts as well. So I have the next eight months to fill the final squares and fill in the card.

 

I have several bingo rows ticked off and have also filled in many of my Pop Sugar categories – some with books I plan to read so I know what I’m reading. Some may prove to be a bit more of a challenge, but that’s half the fun, trying to find something that suits, that I will enjoy and that I have or will receive, saving time as I go through each challenge.

 

So that’s my month of reading for April – hopefully May will be just as productive as I work my way through these challenges, reviewing and reading kids books for work that also contribute to some of these challenge categories.

 

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads:
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title:
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore:
  13. A book published posthumously:
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie:
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title:
  17. A book set on college or university campus:
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors:
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire:
  29. A book with LOVE in the title:
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter:Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl
  36. A ghost story:
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game:
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale:

2017 – A steampunk book:

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book:
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters:Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom:
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage

 

General/#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

  1. Middle School: Born to Rock by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
  2. The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant
  3. A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  4. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  5. Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo
  6. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys
  7. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip – Reviewed
  8. The Lost Magician by Piers Torday (Published 7th of May)
  9. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton
  10. The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  11. Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack by Julian Gough
  12. Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  13. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  14. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  15. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  16. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim (Published 6th of May)
  17. Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist by Dermot O’Leary
  18. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  19. Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms: With help from Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, and Tigger, too! by Brittany Rubiano
  20.  Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson (Published 6th of May)
  21. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda
  22. Fabio, the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express by Laura James
  23. Life Before by Carmel Reilly (Published 6th of May)

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  2. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  3. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  4. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  5. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  6. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Reviewed
  7. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed/Revisited post
  8. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  9. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  10. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  11. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  12. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  13. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  14. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Reviewed
  15. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor – Reviewed
  16. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – Reviewed
  17. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  18. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  19. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  20. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  21. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  22. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  23. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  24. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – Reviewed, Interview
  25. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  26. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  29. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip – Reviewed

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

Book Bingo:

Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book:

Row Two:

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three:

Themes of Science Fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

Themes of Culture:

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

BINGO!

Row Five: Bingo

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

BINGO!

Row Six: Bingo

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

 

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Book by an author with the same initials as you:

Themes of science fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

 

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture:

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

BINGO!

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Row Five:

Prize winning book:

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

April Round-Up – 21

 

Title Author Challenge
Middle School: Born to Rock James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Honeyman and the Hunter Neil Grant General, #Dymocks52Challenge, book bingo
A Dream of Italy Nicky Pellegrino General, #Dymocks52Challenge
 Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began Libby Hathorn General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 Book Bingo
Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny Skye Davidson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo, Pop Sugar
The Artist’s Portrait Julie Keys General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Poppy Field Michael Morpurgo General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lost Magician Piers Torday General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, Pop Sugar

The Suicide Bride Tanya Bretherton General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019

The Bad Mother’s Book Club Keris Stanton General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Pop Sugar

Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack Julian Gough General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Eliza Rose Lucy Worsley General, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar
Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, Popsugar

Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon Rebecca Lim General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, PopSugar

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna Juliet Grames General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, Popsugar

Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist Dermot O’Leary General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Flatshare Beth O’Leary General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms: With help from Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, and Tigger, too! Brittany Rubiano General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Daughter of Bad Times Rohan Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Deltora Quest: The City of Rats Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Fabio, the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express Laura James General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

the flatshare.jpgTitle: The Flatshare

Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Quercus/Hachette

Published: 23rd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 394

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A quirky love story from a fresh new talent. The MUST READ book for 2019

‘The new Jojo Moyes … This has all the ingredients of Me Before You‘ COSMOPOLITAN

‘Funny and winning … a Richard Curtis rom-com that also has its feet firmly planted in real life. A real treat’ Stylist

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

~*~

When it comes to rom-com movies and books, I find that I enjoy the clever ones, and the light-hearted but real ones – where the characters have unapologetic flaws, and are quite human, or that almost satirise the traditional elements of romance in a fun way. I like it when it does so in a way that the tropes are present, yet can sometimes be revealed for how silly they are and this leads to the romance having more oomph for me, where the lead characters don’t have to change for the other, have their in jokes and are shown to be human.

Movies that come to mind that do this are the Bridget Jones films, and several English ones – where sacrifice might be made yet not at the expense of losing a sense of oneself. So when I received a copy of Beth O’Leary’s book, The Flatshare, I was intrigued as to how a rom-com between two people who don’t meet until well into the book (let’s face it, this was inevitable from the get-go, but when it happened, it was no less amusing) would happen. But happen it did.

When Tiffy breaks up with her boyfriend, Justin, she has to move out – and when she sees Leon’s offer on Gumtree – a flatshare where she has it nights and weekends, and he has it in the day – she jumps at the chance. And so begins a strange friendship, where Tiffy and Leon communicate through a series of Post-It notes as they navigate the strange life they lead – sharing a flat but not knowing each other.  At first, the notes are awkward requests, as they try to negotiate terms and space – and each chapter is told alternately – one by Tiffy, the next by Leon, each chapter revealing something about each flatmate, and unfurling a growing friendship, that becomes cheeky and eventually, flirty.

It has the humour of good British  movies like Love Actually, Bridget Jones and a fast paced wit that comes from Gilmore Girls, yet is a uniquely formed story and cast that all have their own strengths, and flaws – and the way that they all come together when someone needs help is lovely – it has a real feel of family and friendship to it, and I felt that having Tiffy and Leon’s relationship grow from awkward strangers to a friendship, and eventually, to love, gave the book a realistic and well-rounded feel that many readers will relate to.

Interview Tanya Bretherton The Suicide Bride

suicide bride

  1. Welcome to The Book Muse Tanya, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Thank you very much for having me.

  1. You’ve written two true crime books about Australian crime – what drew you to this genre, and these cases?

As a reader, I am a big fan of crime stories, particularly those that seek to explore the darker side of human nature.  As a writer I am attracted to the true crime genre because it provides a very dramatic backdrop to tell deeply personal stories.  Loss, tragedy, heartbreak and desperation are all there – both before the crime is committed and they are present in its aftermath as well.  Both The Suitcase Baby and The Suicide Bride begin with true crime events, but they unfold as personal stories.  Crime stories, in some way or other, are always stories about families and secrets.

  1. Can you give a brief explanation of the term suicide bride for my followers who may not have read the book yet?

I began the journey of writing the book by examining at one horrible true crime event in particular. In January 1904 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney, two young brothers discovered the bodies of their parents in the family home.  Thirty-two-year-old Alexander Sly murdered his wife Ellie, with a cut throat razor, and then killed himself.  Their four children, all under the age of eight (Bedford, Basil, Mervyn and baby Olive) were orphaned.

As I began to explore the social and economic context in which the crime was committed, I discovered to my horror that this was not the only case like this.  In the late nineteenth century there were many cases of husbands who planned their own suicide and factored the murder of their wife as part of that act (hence the term ‘suicide bride’).  In the year of 1904 alone, there were murder-suicides attempted and committed by husbands in every single month in every state of Australia. The cases all shared some remarkable and macabre similarities with the Sly murder-suicide case.

  1. What was it about the Sly case in particular that you found interesting, and why?

It is hard to imagine a family story more tragic than that of Alexander and Ellie Sly.  I had to know what happened to the children.  As a researcher, I have studied child protection and from what I knew about trauma and its long-term impacts, I knew the outcomes for the children in this case were not likely to be good.  I wanted to know how a child’s life might unfold in the wake of something so tragic and at a period in history which had a reputation for being very tough on children.

During the research process I also discovered something unique about the Sly family.  I don’t what to give too much away, but there is a twist in the book which I think readers will find as fascinating as I did.

  1. Was it hard trying to determine what really happened with limited resources and evidence for the Sly case, and in turn, the fate of the children, and where did these challenges arise from?

I undertake a lot of research before I even start to write a true crime book, because I want to see if there is enough material to sustain both a big picture account of the event, and a personal story as well.  I was well down the research road before I decided that there was enough viable material to write The Suicide Bride.  With this book I had the unusual situation of having too much material, so I had to make decisions about which stories I was going to focus on, which characters were going to play the leads, and who would play the minor roles.  In the end, those choices came down to decisions of the heart not the head.

  1. When writing true crime, what are the most important, or most informative sources for you, and why?

I tend to write social history and life history narratives disguised as true crime stories.  For this reason trial transcripts, inquest documents and those resources that might traditionally form the foundation for a true crime account play a lesser role in my research process.  I do a lot of genealogical research for my books, as I think there are powerful discoveries to be made in uncovering how deeply a crime event impacts loved ones and how long it reverberates down through a family.

  1. Do you find looking at these crimes from a sociological perspective rather than a criminology or criminal investigative perspective gives a different insight into the crime? What do you think the differences are?

There is no doubt that sociology deeply influences both how I analyse true crime events and how I write about them.  In sociology, a lot of emphasis is placed on understanding the roles we play in collective settings, social norms, and the labels that we use to categorise people.  I think this is important because it gives us a deeper understanding of the really complex context that underpins crime. In exploring murder, for example, law and order perspectives consider the question of motive: why would person A kill person B?  I think sociology can help fill the bigger canvas of ‘why?’ by asking what is the social, the economic and the familial context for ‘why’.

  1. What sparked your initial interest in true crime stories in particular, and do you plan to look into further cases that we might not know much about, or that might not have been solved?

I think my interest in the true crime genre goes way back to childhood.  We didn’t have many books in our house when I was growing up, but my Dad was an avid reader of murder mysteries.  So almost every book in our house had a dead body in it – that probably had an impact on an early reader!  To this day I write stories that have a twist in some way or other, and if I don’t find that twist, I will abandon a subject as a possible book and move on to another case.

Yes, I definitely have a number of books planned!  I always like to select cases that have not had a lot of exposure to date.  I am developing two more Sydney-based true crime books at the moment.  Both of these books will also deal with issues of women and crime.

  1. Do you think we will ever find out why Alicks Sly committed the murder-suicide and left four children orphans?

The murder suicide of Alicks Sly and his wife made national news.  It was a big story at the time.  Alicks Sly was a local spiritualist and medium who believed he could communicate with the dead.  He saw visions and heard voices.  The family were also profoundly poor as well.  All of this absolutely fascinated the public at the time, and retrospectively we continue to reflect on the different ways in which this crime can be viewed.  Was Alicks mentally ill?  Was there a pattern of violence in the home prior to the final tragic incident?  I think the same questions that investigators were asking about the Sly case in 1904, we are still asking about murder-suicides that occur today.  We might draw a clinical set of conclusions as to why this kind of crime occurs, but this analysis will always fall short in the face of something so tragic and heartbreaking.

  1. How often do you find living descendants of the families involved to talk to about the cases, and what are the ethical issues you navigate when you encounter them?

To date, I have chosen historical true crime stories that are very old.  This means there aren’t any relatives (still living) who were directly impacted by the tragedies.

  1. Are there any legal issues or obstacles you face when looking into these old crimes, and like the previous question about ethics, how does it affect the outcome of your book?

I purposefully select cases that I know won’t present me with the kinds of ethical dilemmas that will disrupt the writing process.  I want to be able to write unencumbered by those responsibilities.

Any ethical questions I face during the writing process tend to be more abstract and relate to writing in the spaces of grey that exist between rigid depictions of good and evil. Can a person be a villain and a victim at the same time?  Can a criminal act ever be a noble choice?  I hope that I offer up enough evidence to the reader, that they get to decide.  I want them to make the moral call on the crime, the criminal who committed it and how they feel society should have handled what happened.

  1. Finally, what do you hope writing about these crimes does to help society and possibly those who have links to those involved, and can this have a positive impact on crime solving?

I think true crime stories are often written as psychological portraits, and this plays an important role in helping us to understand the pathology that can underpin some criminal behaviour.  But there is also a wider social and economic context for crime.  Putting moral questions about crime and criminals aside for a moment, people who commit crimes may be labelled criminals, but they are also people looking for solutions.  We may not agree with their approach to problem solving, we may even abhor it, but understanding what drives people to commit crime remains important and conflicted terrain for us all to reflect on.  In both The Suitcase Baby and The Suicide Bride, a criminal act resulted from absolute desperation.  The people in those stories were looking for solutions.  They made unthinkable choices, terrible choices.  In the end what they found was not a solution at all.  Their choices also created even more heartbreak for the people they cared most about.  I can’t claim that my books have any impact on the field of criminology, nor the methodologies we use to catch criminals, but it is fascinating terrain to work with in terms of character and story.

Thank you for joining me on The Book Muse, Tanya and good luck with your future projects.

Blog Tour Part Two: The French Photographer Interview with Natasha Lester

the french photographer
Cover of The Paris Seamstress.

Hi Natasha, and welcome to my blog, The Book Muse. Thank you for joining me here today.

First of all, congratulations on the new novel, it was exceptional, and had everything a good novel should have to tell a very powerful story.

  1. Jessica reminded me of Estella – both are women of their time, yet still strive to achieve more than people expect of them. What is it that draws you to write characters like Jess and Estella?

If women like Estella and Jess had never existed, then I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have now, the opportunities that I have had over my lifetime. But there is still much that needs to change. So I write these stories to honour the women who have come before me and who have made many aspects of my life possible, but also to show how far we still have to go in many other respects.

  1. Jess is based on a real-life journalist, Lee Miller. I’ve researched Lee, and she sounds fascinating. How did you stumble across her story, and what was it about her story that inspired Jess?

I came across Lee Miller when I was writing The Paris Seamstress. She was mentioned in an article I was reading, specifically that, after writing about and photographing a war for years, she had turned to writing cooking articles and recipes once the war was over. I wondered how that might have felt and I was compelled to look further into her life. When I realised she began her career on the other side of the lens, as a model, I was fascinated by how the transition from model to war photojournalist had evolved. Then, when I discovered that, at her death, her son never knew of the incredible articles his mother had written during the war, never knew of the exceptional photos she had taken, I knew for sure that there was a story in there waiting to be written.

Natasha+Lester_AUTHOR+PIC
Natasha Lester, Image from Hachette Australia
  1. Your characters reflect and explore the spectrum of humanity and human emotion. When writing, did you find doing this enriched the story, and how challenging (or not), did you find it to explore someone like Amelia or Warren Stone?

Warren Stone was very challenging to write. But the more I read about the experience of the women war correspondents, the more I knew that men like Warren had existed. The difficulty was in not making him seem pure evil, in making us understand his motivations and in giving him humanity. There is one scene in the book that uses direct reportage from one of the female correspondents, Iris Carpenter, about a sexual assault that she stumbled upon. When I read her memoir and the words she wrote about that incident, I found it incredibly difficult to imagine how the man involved was anything less than a monster. But I had to imagine, in Warren, who is an accumulation of many men and many incidents, more than his despicable acts; I had to strip them away to find the person beneath and the reasons why he might behave in the way he does in the book.

  1. Fashion plays a large role in this novel. The beauty of fashion and photography bookends the reality of war, and the bland clothes Jess wears during the war. Where did your fascination with fashion start, and do you have a favourite designer you’re drawn to for inspiration in writing these stories?

I’ve always loved clothes. My real interest began when I lived in London for two years and wonderful vintage stores like Steinberg and Tolkien were at my doorstep, and the V&A museum was there to be visited each weekend. One of my absolute favourite designers is Vionnet; she was a true artist. I am also currently obsessed with Christian Dior, as I am writing a book called The Dior Bequest.

  1. How do you think the war affected Jess and her interest in art, photography and fashion before, during and after the war?

I think you could not photograph and write about the things Jess saw without being deeply affected by it, without needing to seek out the other things besides war that humankind can create; beautiful things like art and photography. I think she spent the rest of her life trying to strip away what she saw during war and attempting to replace those pictures, layer by layer, with things that inspired other emotions than sadness and other actions than violence.

  1. Looking at what we saw on the page, how much of your planning for plot, character and backstory never makes it into the final copy?

So much! When I wrote the first draft, I had no idea how the book would end. I had no idea how Victorine would fit into the story, and that she would become such an important player. I had no real idea what D’Arcy would do once she arrived at the chateau in the contemporary storyline. Once I sketched all that out in the first draft, I went a bit overboard, as I always do, in the second draft, adding in lots of the research and deeply fleshing out scenes. So a lot of that has to be cut in the end as it slows the pace too much. The first and second parts of the historical storyline in particular were trimmed quite a lot.

  1. I adored Victorine, and I hope other readers do too. Her story was heartbreaking but revealed the reality of war and war orphans. When researching this, did you find experiences like Victorine’s were common, and what country had most of the stories you found from?

Her experience was so common, especially in France where the exodus of people out of Paris and Northern France in late May and early June 1940 left so many lost and abandoned children who were never reunited with family. The Russians also experienced a huge and devastating number of war orphans, numbering in the millions.

  1. One of my favourite things about this novel was how you developed the relationship between Dan and Jess, starting with respect, which led to friendship and then love. To me, this was something that was extremely important to the story, because we rarely see friendships like this celebrated. When writing, what led you to write this relationship in this way, and did you find it effective to do so for the plot?

This was always going to be a book about a friendship between a man and a woman, a strong and important friendship, that eventually turned to love. But that initial friendship, and their mutual respect, was to be the foundation for all of it, and without that, I don’t think their relationship would have been anywhere near as powerful as it is. I say in the back of the book that Jess and Dan were like gifts from the writing muse and they were; they came to me easily and quickly and their relationship almost developed by itself without me having to do more than type out the rush of words in my head.

  1. Warren Stone consistently tried to jeopardise Jess and embarrass Dan. Was this inspired by any truth, and did anything like this happen to your inspiration, Lee Miller?

As I mentioned earlier, Warren Stone is an amalgamation of men and incidents. One of the books I read for my research was called Never a Shot in Anger;it was the memoirs of one of the Public Relations Officers during WWII who was responsible for dealing with the press. So much of what happens to Jess is recorded as fact in his book and the troubling part of it was that he wrote about those incidents with no understanding of how wrong it all was. To him, it was just the way life was at that time. It’s quite shocking to read. And there was so much more that I left out and didn’t have the space to include. This is the part of the book that worries me the most – that readers won’t believe these things could possibly have happened. But they did!

  1. Each part is told from a different point of view and in various times and years. I enjoy the dual time line set up, because I feel it makes the story richer. Do you find a format like this effective, and what makes you decide on the dual timeline set up?

It makes it richer for me as a storyteller too, although it is so very challenging to pull off. So many character and points of view and story threads to juggle and eventually weave together. I decided on it for this book simply became I enjoyed writing that way for The Paris Seamstress. I like the way that it allows a mystery to unfold and for the reader to become involved in solving the mystery.

  1. Taking into consideration what has been discussed already, are there any sources for fashion, Lee Miller, war orphans and the war in general that you explored that might not have been mentioned yet?

The main sources were the actual articles written by the female correspondents at the time. I read most of Martha Gellhorn’s pieces for Collier’s Weekly, Lee Miller’s pieces for Vogue, Iris Carpenter’s pieces for the Boston Globeand Margaret Bourke-White’s pieces for Life. In their articles, I heard their voices, saw what concerns they had, what they deemed worthy of attention, and how they wove a story together. It was extremely useful, especially when I compared their pieces to the articles written by the men at the time.

  1. One scene that was written effectively was the scene at the concentration camp. It was powerful and drove home the reality of war. Can you tell my readers more about where the inspiration for this scene came from, and why you decided to include it?

That was a hard scene to write. But I knew from the outset that it would be in the book as all of the women talked about the effect that seeing the camps had on them. There were so many important points I wanted to make in that scene: about the fact that so many people thought rumours about the camps were untrue, that the camps could have been liberated earlier if more people had listened and acted, that  civilians in towns with camps on their doorstep ignored the plumes smoke and the smell of death for years. That, of course, we must never allow such a thing to happen again. It’s the hinge moment of the book and, without that scene, so much of what follows would not have been brought to bear.

13. Apart from the scene in the book, what more can you tell us about the occupation of Hitler’s Munich residence, and how being there affected those who raided the home?

It was fascinating to read Lee Miller’s piece about her stay in Hitler’s Munich apartment. I couldn’t believe how much souvenir raiding went on, how many soldiers took his cutlery and linen, and I wondered what it would feel like to be living in the apartment of such a man. Most who stayed there seemed to think it the ultimate sign of victory and took great heart from it; it allowed them to ridicule a man who, two years before, had been so feared that nobody would have ever thought to ridicule him. It made him a defeatable man rather than an immortal monster.

  1. Without giving too much away about the ending, can you tell us why you decided to write a realistic, bittersweet ending, and what this process was like after everything you set up for the characters?

The ending was hard to write but I couldn’t see another way for the story to end that won’t seem too convenient and too unbelievable. War changes everything for the people involved and its bitter aftermath extends for decades; the pain doesn’t end just because the war itself is declared to be over. I wanted to be true to that in the ending of this book.

  1. Any additional comments?

Just that this is my favourite of all my books, the book of my heart, and I hope everyone loves reading it as much as I loved writing it.

Thank you for joining me here today, Natasha, and congratulations again.

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