Girls on Tour – Around the World – Nicola Doherty

girls on tour

Why a booktrail?

Formerly published at 5 e novellas, now you can literally travel the world with Poppy in Paris, Lily in LA, Maggie in Meribel, Rachel in Rome before heading off the to big apple.

Story in a nutshell 

Even if you’ve never met the four friends who have the most madcap adventures in far flung places around the world, here you can meet them all ‘ on tour’ for the celebrity travellers that they are. Set together in one volume, the journey almost seems like the most extravagant and mad cap adventure in the world.

Poppy, Lily, Maggie, and Rachel. Who will you want to be and where will you want to go? Well now you can now pick this perfect literary package tour. Holiday destinations and a fair few surprises and giggles along the way…

Place and setting

GIRLS-ON-TOUR

There should be a poster for this book – Girls on Tour – certainly reads like a tour and with that song ‘ Here come the girls’ ringing in our ears, this is the perfect moment to read this book.

Paris

Poppy’s off on a work trip to the city of romance. Ironic when she’s in one of her deepest dry spells. Oh and as soon as she arrives and steps off that metro at Odeon station, she sees the familiar Paris sights: the statue of Danton, broad boulevards with tall white buildings, Saint Suplice and the beautiful Jardins de Luxembourg. Oh but the two most iconic sites for a booktrailer are here too – The Shakespeare ad Company book shop and the nearby tea shop ‘ La Fourmi Ailee’ – literally translated as ‘ant with wings’. A very Parisian Jaunt around the city of love, but will it be love for Poppy?

Los Angeles

Lily in LA, where her dream role is ambushed by an all-American dreamboat. Oh the thrills and spills of the city of fame and fortune. Quirky funny observations where Hollywood boulevard reminds her of Bromley! From The treelined avenue of Abbot Kinney boulevard, this is a ride around Venice Beach and the wedding dress shops of the area. But with an American dreamboat not far behind…

Meribel

Maggie is in Meribel, where a romantic skiing holiday turns topsy-turvy.What’s there not to love with the soft white pure snow, hot chocolate, raclette, vin chaud…and plenty of eye candy too to enjoy on the slopes of the French alps

Rome

Ride a Vespa with Rachel in Rome, and follow her and her two besties around the city with history, culture and delectable men. It’s a culinary journey too for it made us want to eat olives, ice cream and sip cappuccinos although not at the same time!

Manhattan

What trip to New York would not want to recreate a little of the Sex and the City magic? Don’t be hungry when reading this for there are cocktails, pancakes and gorgeous treats galore. Oh and when the girls do Manhattan, they do Manhattan – from the tourist sites to the fun things that only girls on holiday can do. There’s a lot of fashion sights too and then Lily shares their real reason for being here..

Bookish musings

Well if you love travel, girlie holidays, thrills and spills of the unexpected, adventure and cocktails then you’re in for a fun ride! Such different characters and different settings for their quirky natures to come alive. Nice how the stories are interlinked and the friendships develop, I wanted to be the fifth girl on the tour to be honest. Thought we’d go to somewhere in Spain, Barcelona for example. Oooh I had it all planned out, the things we would do and the things we would see! I feel I know the girls well enough now to know what each one would like to do on their next jaunt away!

A lot of fun and dashing around the globe seeing each different lifestyles personality and adventures was a great literary trip. Interesting how the settings complimented the girls personalities too – and brought out such different behaviours. I had a song ‘ Girls on tour ‘ with a spice girl theme running in my mind all throughout these five picture postcards of literary jaunts and it made for a great soundtrack.

When you read something like this which could be a travelogue, love story, adventure and challenge to overcome troubles in your life all rolled into one, you just know you’re in for a great ride.

The Little Paris Bookshop – France – Nina George

6144CR67fNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Why a booktrail?

A book about books set in Paris that reminded us of the gorgeous and very real Shakespeare and Company book emporium on the banks of the Seine. Magical

Story in a nutshell

Jean Perdu runs a bookshop in Paris but this is no ordinary bookstore – its a beautifully restored barge for one also known as a ‘literary apothecary’, as Jean possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers. Such as –

“With all due respect , what you read in the long term is more important that the man you marry”

Sadly he has been unable to treat his own sadness. When he was younger, the love of his life fled the city leaving behind a letter which he has never been able to read. But then someone comes into his life which inspires him to go in search of the past, forgotten moments, a lost love and ultimately himself.

Place and setting

aris  Rue Montagnard (fictional) but which is located in the marais area of the city where Place Vosges is a favourite place for creative types Where M Perdu lives and where he meets his neighbour who will inspire him to do good Shakespeare and Company - http://shakespeareandcompany.com/ To feel the essence of the book we think you should visit here and see if you can find Monsieur Perdu Sanary sur Mer Quai Wilson the prettiest spot in Sanary where you can see the town and the sea and the boules Cuisery - http://www.cuisery.fr/points-fort-et-Village-du-livre.htm The town which loves books and which has literary catacombs Toulon Where the journey ends or rather a new one begins....
Paris
Rue Montagnard (fictional) but which is located in the marais area of the city where Place Vosges is a favourite place for creative types
Where M Perdu lives and where he meets his neighbour who will inspire him to do good
Shakespeare and Companyhttp://shakespeareandcompany.com/
To feel the essence of the book we think you should visit here and see if you can find Monsieur Perdu
Sanary sur Mer
Quai Wilson the prettiest spot in Sanary where you can see the town and the sea and the boules
Cuiseryhttp://www.cuisery.fr/points-fort-et-Village-du-livre.htm
The town which loves books and which has literary catacombs
Toulon
Where the journey ends or rather a new one begins….

A boat with a low-slung belly, a galley, two sleeping berths and eight thousand book. Its a world apart from our world”

And the kind of this world is Monsieur Perdu

Welcome to the gorgeously named Literary Apothecary – with Monsieur Perdu looks after his books as if they were his children, who cares for them and the readers who come in looking for something special.

The barge has been lovingly restored and set up to allow people to browse on the Seine, water lapping at its sides and the iconic views of Paris all around. This is the city for reading sitting on a wall looking out at the river, spotting a place in a park, taking your book around the cobbled streets..

From this bookish Paris we are then taken on a  journey to Provence. Along for the ride is a novelist, Max Jordan – who is escaping from the publicity surrounding his best selling novel . The pair of them travel along the canals and waterways of France and giving out literary advice, literary cures all in search of Jean Perdu’s lost love.

We travel through Saint-Mammès, Cepoy/Montargis, Briare, Canal de Briare, along the Canal Laterdal a la Loire to Digion, along the canal du Centre past Chalon sur Saone, Cuisery, Lyons and all the way down to Avignon by book barge. Cuisery stands out for the fact that it’s a book town!

Oh, Cuisery! An avid reader will lose his heart here. The whole village is crazy about books…

There was room in Cuisery for anything remotely associated with literature. There was a doctor who specialised i literary schizophrenia. He was consulted by people whose alter ego was a reincarnation or Dostouesvsky….

They wander around Cuisery and its literary catacombs for a further three days….bliss you may want to linger here too.

However our journey continues to Menerbes, Bonnieux, Buoux, Lourmarin, Pertuis, Aix en Provence down to Cassis, La Ciotat, Bandol and Sanary sur Mer with the final destination of Toulon.

Sanary is the last place on the cast between Marseilles and Toulon, among all the towns made up of little white boxes…

The lanes are narrow, the houses are colouful and small…

Ah the places you will go and the sights you will see! Literary landmarks abound. And a meandering chats about books and lost love.

Bookish musings

First of all, the idea of a floating book shop is like paradise to us. A bookseller who recommends books to solve people’s problems (what the best booksellers do as books are very much like medicine and are often a much better tonic!)

We loved the whole idea behind the story – the magic of books and how books can cure all ills. There’s an author with writer’s block who travels with him and the discussions they have along the way, the people they meet and their quirky bookish adventure were fun to read and imagine ourselves on that gorgeous book barge!

There is one quote amongst all the quirky advice, recipes and other wordly advice connected to books we loved but what we particularly loved was advice on how to arrange your reads

He should group them by theme instead. Everything about Italy in one corner:cookbooks, who dunnits by Donna Leon, novels, illustrated books, essays on Leonardo….

The booktrail philosophy if ever we heard it!  And a book to pick up again and again when you need a moment, a friendly piece of advice and to be reminded of the beautiful book barge and its literary cures for life.

Totally recommended and already cherished!

Paris – The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain (Translator Jane Aitken)

red notebook

Why a booktrail?

An homage of sorts to the streets, the people and the essence of Paris. A treasure trail of sorts inspired by a lost handbag…

Story in a nutshell

Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across a lost handbag on a Parisian street, and so does what he can to return it to its owner. Only problem is that the bag contains nothing really of note bar a small red notebook with handwritten notes jotted down….revealing a picture of someone that he feels compelled to meet.

But how on earth is he going to track down someone who has left no trace of themselves? One woman in a city full of people?

Place and setting

Eiffel tower As seen on the cover and a good way of navigating your way around the city with Laurent L'Espérance cafe 36 Rue Université, 75007 Paris, France
Where Laurent usually ends up on his morning walks Shakespeare and Company The most iconic bookstore in the capital and surely very similar to where Laurent works The Muette area Muette metro at the centre and there is a rue de la passe-muette referred to in the novel
Eiffel tower
As seen on the cover and a good way of navigating your way around the city with Laurent
L’Espérance cafe 36 Rue Université, 75007 Paris, France
Where Laurent usually ends up on his morning walks
Shakespeare and Company
The most iconic bookstore in the capital and surely very similar to where Laurent works
The Muette area
Muette metro at the centre and there is a rue de la Passe-Muette referred to in the novel

Even just the mention of a bookshop,  clues found in a lost handbag in Paris conjures up all sorts of classic images from films and a magical searching quality that pervades this short tale.

The moments before the mugging however are still and calm.

Paris is a city of millions yet Laurent must find the one women who leaves no trace of herself in her bag. Assuming she must have been mugged, which would explain the lack of purse and ID, just how will he find her? And find her he must.

He continued on his way down Rue due Passe-Mussette. L’Espérance was right at the end.

Laurent passed one of the bins, slowing down – it had taken a little time to register what he had seen – then turned back and retraced his steps

Searching for a mysterious woman using the clues she has left behind, and in Paris….. Ah a lovely French love story. Two people who will come together over a trail for the truth…

Local life in Paris is beautifully evoked as you follow in the footsteps of Laurent as he searches for the mysterious women whose red notebook he has in his hands. Not all places are real but fictional or otherwise, the spirit of Paris is beautifully evoked. Cleverly done with a few random objects which lead you and Laurent round the streets of a capital city but making you feel as though you are the only ones and this city will slowly give up its secrets to you.

There are many literary references too-

And for an extra treat – where the language will immerse you in a love story with the city and its people even more so – the book in French is entitled  La femme au carnet rouge.

Bookish musings

How charming and very French Amelie came to mind when reading it and the poetic language really comes across well in the translation so kudos to Jane Aitken for it really shines.

This could and should be a nice film. Very French and very atmospheric. A nice love story and the search for someone who has affected you even if you haven’t met them. A nice premise for a book and despite its short length, it manages to convey everything it needs to and more.

This is a Paris book – one to linger in,stroll around in, and keep your eyes open for treasures along the way.

I’m still there. Sitting in a cafe, not far from an old bookshop…

France – George’s Grand Tour – Caroline Vermalle – Translator Anna Aitken

geroge grand tour

Why a booktrail?

83 year old George and his friend Charles have long dream of going on a road trip….driving the 3500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France….

Fetch your cycle, get in your car and let’s hit the road….

Story in a nutshell

George and Charles are friends and neighbours who live in Chanteloup in France. They live a quiet and sedate life eating and drinking and watching the telly – well George is 83.

But the two of them have had a dream for a while of  going on a road trip. Now that George’s daughter Adele has headed off to South America, he wants to focus on his dream knowing that she wouldnt be able to put him off. Heck she wont even know he’s gone not as if they’re close. And following the route of the Tour de France is it.

But this is the old man version – where bikes are replaced with a brand-new Renault Scenic, complete with GPS. So when Adele calls – will she scupper his plans or can some carefully diverted phone calls do the trick?

George has a dream – and part of that dream will involve learning text speak and doing things he never thought he’d be doing at his age!

Place and setting

Notre Dame de Monts - where they stay with Georges sister at the start of the book. A clean discreet seaside town.  Brest, Finistère - where George is when Adele rings and so he sends a text telling her they’re in a hotel and getting their calls diverted! Guémené-sur-Scorff where they all celebrate the first part of the tour with a  kir. Writing in their ‘text speak’ -  “luvly cttge, nice frnt, restrant w rejonal spcialities, 2 end a lng day. celebra8d 1st stage of rouu w Kir Plumelec They drive all the way here without stopping and visit the museum of Prehistory on the square. They're keen to see the famous standing stones as well http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-brittany/quintessential-brittany/carnac Erquy -http://www.erquy-tourisme.com/ where they walk on the beach and george considers swimming. He meets a swimmer -  Marcel  - and the three of them become friends and Marcel gives them a guided tour of the town Nantes George buys an Agatha Christie book here
Notre Dame de Monts – where they stay with Georges sister at the start of the book. A clean discreet seaside town.
Brest, Finistère – where George is when Adele rings and so he sends a text telling her they’re in a hotel and getting their calls diverted!
Guémené-sur-Scorff
where they all celebrate the first part of the tour with a kir. Writing in their ‘text speak’ –
“luvly cttge, nice frnt, restrant w rejonal spcialities, 2 end a lng day. celebra8d 1st stage of rouu w Kir
Plumelec
They drive all the way here without stopping and visit the museum of Prehistory on the square. They’re keen to see the famous standing stones as well http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-brittany/quintessential-brittany/carnac
Erquyhttp://www.erquy-tourisme.com/
where they walk on the beach and george considers swimming. He meets a swimmer – Marcel – and the three of them become friends and Marcel gives them a guided tour of the town

Imagine two old men in a car travelling the distance of the Tour de France 2008- that’s quite a trip! And their motto?

“Down with the dictatorship of aches and pains, and down with the doctors who stuff us with pills, and down with the daily routine that’s sending us to our graves. We’ve got to rebel. And when the end comes, well, we can bow out with dignity.”

The Stages – missing out stage four as they’ve decided not to count the time the cyclists spent in Cholet. They plan quite an epic journey –

1 Brest – Pumelec the official starting point

2 Auray- Saint- Brieue

3 Saint-Malo – Nantes 

5 Cholet – Châteauroux

6 Aigurance  Super-Besse

7 Brioude – Aurillac

8 Figeac – Toulouse

9 Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre

10  Pau – Huatacam

11 Lannemezan – Foix

12 Lavelanet – Narbonne

13 Narbonne  Nîmes

14 Nîmes – Digne le Bains

15 Embrun – Prato Nevoso

16 Cuneo –  Jausiers

17 Embrun – L’Alpe d’Huez

18 Le Bourg d’Oisans –  Saint-Étienne

19 Roanne –  Montluçon

20 Cérilly – Sant-Amand – Montrond

21 Étampes – Paris –  Champs-Élysées

This might be the tour but the real trip is what they see and the people they meet along the way.

But their journey doesn’t exactly go to plan since is wayward and bothersome family members seem high intent on scuppering their plans. It might not be what they envisaged at the start of their idea but its rather a journey of grandfather and granddaughter in the end – and the overriding sense that life is one big adventure if you open your eyes and don’t accept the limitations and expectations society and other people place on you.

Old age is a grand old adventure in itself it would seem.

For the tour de France information check out the official website here – http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2015/us/overall-route.html

Bookish musings

This was both funny and poignant so a hanky is not a bad idea. Bless them both but especially George who  explains whey they are going on the tour ‘because they want to’. Well if you cant do what you want at 83 when can you?

The loss of his wife has hit him hard and it was very sad to see him think of her and reminisce. Enjoyed learning about the relationship between him and Adele – but loved the friendship between him and charles and those he meets along the way.

I willed him on, I cheered when they reached one stage and then another. I laughed at the confusion of phones and even things in his own county he hadn’t really thought about before.

But then at the end I cried – but I had one heck of  a smile on my face as I thought of George.

Mrs Hemingway – South of France, Cuba and USA – Naomi Wood

himngway

Why a booktrail?

Who was the real Ernest Hemingway? His four wives paint an interesting and contrasting picture of him and tell their side of the story not in any of his famous novels

Story in a nutshell

Ernest Hemingway was famous for writing novels and infamous for his love of women. He married four times and was either a hopeless romantic or an old fool depending on your viewpoint. Hadley was his first wife – the original Mrs Hemingway who opens the novel with her experiences and life with the legendary writer. Then each in turn, the other women in his life tell their story.

Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages.

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Place and setting

 FLORIDA - Key West Hemingway house Duval Street and Sloppy Joes CUBA San Francisco de Cuba house FRANCE South of France -Antibes Where Hadley regrets that now things are done à trois for Fife lives with them here FRANCE  - Paris Shakespeare and company  where Martha goes to buy earnest a book The Ritz Hotel -  And the legend of the daring recovery of the Ritz from the Krauts

FLORIDA – Key West
Hemingway house
Duval Street and Sloppy Joes
CUBA
San Francisco de Cuba house
FRANCE – the South – Antibes
South of France -Antibes
Where Hadley regrets that now things are done à trois for Fife lives with them here
FRANCE – Paris
Shakespeare and Company
where Martha goes to buy earnest a book
The Ritz Hotel –
And the legend of the daring recovery of the Ritz from the Krauts

From his home in Key West Florida, to their summer vacation place in Antibes France, we travel with the Hemingways as their lives play out on the world stage but hidden from the world’s eyes. With brief sejours in Cuba and Spain too during the Civil war, this is a booktrail of some very iconic locations which formed the basis of much of Hemingway’s work.

Antibes - source Wikipedia
Antibes – source Wikipedia

Antibes and Paris, France

It’s the summer of  1926 and Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley is staying with him in a villa in Antibes.

The morning is already warm and the light has turned the white cotton sheets nearly blue

At night fruit falls to the grass with a soft thunk and in the morning she finds the oranges split and stormed by ants

A vivid picture  – of something beautiful turned into something horrible so quickly – much like the Hemingway’s unravelling relationship. Yet the south of France locations shows how much the young Hemingways and their friends Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were keen to live the good life where ‘ the livin is easy’ is evoked in both the dinners they have, the sitting on the balcony and the general easy living of that era.

Paris

But behind the scenes Hadley yearns for Paris, its grey skies and the simple apartment there but then this was the place where she discovered Ernest’s affair in a letter. Suspecting it after having seen them whispering in the cathedral in Chartres, the fallout soon follows. This is also the location for a further fling – Martha the war correspondent to buy Ernest a book from the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the left bank. The literary side of the city is alive and well.

Flag of Cuba
Flag of Cuba

Cuba and Spain

Ernest spent much of his time here and its where Mary, wife four, spends time here with him. She likens it to Pemberley where she is Elizabeth Bennett – 

When Ernest had driven up the Finca, the morning of her arrival in Cuba, she had immediately smelled hibiscus and lime. Before her was the most enormous white mansion, bright as a pebble in the Caribbean sunshine.

In Spain we visit via Martha, wife three, who worked with Ernest as a war correspondent during the Civil war. She is abused by him – he calls her a bitch and slaps her when she drives his car into a tree. But still, like the others, she stays

“Rabbit remember Spain, we need war so we can feel the force of each other. Let’s not go back to Cuba”

Spain was an exciting time in Hemingway’s life and provided his material for some of his greatest writing but it was a place of chaos in both his private and personal life.

Key West Florida - pic from Wikipedia
Key West Florida – pic from Wikipedia

Key West Florida

Ernest’s home in Key West is where we are when Fife ;s story takes up – it’s where she remembers their first kiss

“Where the shutters  are open a breeze comes into the house from the Gulf crying in the scent of tamarind, frangipani, banana.

They, especially Ernest loves his old haunt of the Sloppy Joe’s bar and is where he ‘hides out’ when the going gets tough

The Hemingway is quite a journey across the world, via the voices of four wives as they each take it in turn to take us back in place and time – to their time with Ernest and life as a mistress then as a wife.

hemingway 1923

Bookish musings

What a fascinating account of a great writer by the women who knew him best (and for the worst)

Each of the wives/mistresses in turn gave a new impression of the man and together with the jump from place to place, date and time, this created a vast and deeply interesting portrait of the man. The villa in Antibes was a holiday haven for one wife only to become a house of sin soon after. A walk on the beach in paradise when the topic of conversation was divorce, was anything but. But as one mistress became the next wife, Ernest seems to have lined them up as easy as a game of skittles – when he knocked them down the fallout was just as noisy.

I can’t help feeling sorry and relieved for Hadley  – she saw how Fife replaced her and then as we see the situation trough Fife’s eyes, I  felt karma come and kick her up the backside. Yet as Martha made her mark, I did feel sympathy for Fife….What’s going on here and how did Ernest manage to get so many women on side?

Would they really have jumped off balconies for him? Whatever the answer, this is a fascinating and only partially fictional account of one man seen through the eyes of a cycle, a merry-go- round of women.

A Place for Us – London, Bath, Paris, Florence – Harriet Evans

22673162 (1)

Why a booktrail?

Welcome to Winterfold, a fictional town in England but one you can visit with this tale of a secret hidden in the past…..

Story in a nutshell

Ooh a secret that comes out after 80 or so years…….An old woman who has kept this secret is finally ready to tell it and so she calls her family to the home in Winterfold (apparently somewhere near Bath) and a secret that could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.

The pretty house in the countryside is the setting for the secret reveal but what will happen once things are out in the open? will the peace and tranquility be shattered for ever?

Place and setting

 slade school of art http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade The national gallery - http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
 chapel market - where david walks past and eats an apple thinking of how he got out of a bad situation The Lyons corner house at marble arch where david sits to meet someone Stonehenge - Cat and Luke visit here  winterstoke - an old area in somerset bath denoting old feudal and tax boundaries  Florence - Via Dei Sapiti Rue de Charonne in Paris

LONDON – slade school of art http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade
The national gallery – http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

chapel market – where david walks past and eats an apple thinking of how he got out of a bad situation
The Lyons corner house at marble arch where david sits to meet someone
BATH – Stonehenge – Cat and Luke visit here
BATH  – winterstoke – an old area in somerset bath denoting old feudal and tax boundaries
Florence – Via Dei Sapiti
Rue de Charonne in Paris

The setting is a time gone by – a peaceful ramshackle house deep in the English countryside where the scent of wisteria climbing up the walls floats alongside the aroma of something being baked within. gingerbread covered hands wiped on tea towels then someone comes to the beautifully painted door opening to let you in. Only when you get inside, and meet your mother, she sits you down and tells you the truth, shattering everything you believed in in the process….

The settings come to life in the snippets learned from flashbacks –

Husband David – David was just a young boy living in London during WW2. some of the most fascinating scenes are set here and the life of the young man in such a turbulent time is captivating as well as being vital to understand later on in the book.

He met Martha at the Slade School of Art and wonders what would have happened if he had not met her that day. She had saved him and that is something he is sure about.

Florence – Daughter Florence is an academic/Professor of art and lives in – Florence in the via dei Sapiti! Her lack of social skills and awkwardness is endearing compared to others in the family.

Paris – Cat spends a lot of time in Paris and eats at the Abesses and at the Bar Georges on the Rue De Charonne. Ambling through life as indeed she does through the streets of Paris.

Bookish thoughts

Originally posted in four parts like a serial read, I would think each part would make you read the next so it would be easier to read all in one volume such as this one. I would think that a  book format rather than an ebook would be better as in the earlier part, each chapter flits from one character to the next and I often had to check back.

The story is in the form of a saga and I just love it when old people give up their secrets and reveal something to their children years later. Many of my favourite reads involve such a scenario and so I was enthralled from the get go. Despite a slow start, the tension and intrigue do build and I was really wanting to know what happened but also not sure that I did – as if I was one of the family.

Tell you what though, despite the darkness behind the facade, living in Winterfold sounds very nice indeed.  A family saga that spans time periods, war and peace, london and italy and a range of characters with secrets and histories of their own if Harriet ever decides to branch out and explore this more.

Which I hope she does.

Cuppa and a rather posh cake with Kate Beaufoy -author of Liberty Silk

Today is the day that the lady who wrote this wonderful book comes round to Booktrail towers in her Liberty Silk dress and dainty shoes to share the story behind the story with us. It really was a book that made an impression on us – based on real life and the author’s grandmother no less! Given the nature of the novel and the time period in which it is set, we have the posh china out that normally is just reserved for royalty and have ordered a rather fine looking dress cake . Oh that’s enough polishing the cake forks….here is Kate herself…

Kate Beaufoy in the photographic style of Liberty Silk
Kate Beaufoy in the photographic style of Liberty Silk

Hi Kate, How honoured we are to have you over here today! It’s great to see you – your novel Liberty Silk was a firm favourite of 2014 here at the booktrail and it told a wonderful story! Thank you for bringing your photo album to show us as well.

liberty silk

What a remarkable story this is and based on real life? Can you tell us more about your story?

The inspiration for the novel came from letters my grandmother wrote whilst on honeymoon in France and Italy in 1919. My grandparents met while doing war work in Rouen just after the Armistice. They fell in love at first sight, and were engaged just five weeks later. The backstory is based on these letters; however, the rest of the story is fiction. My grandmother in reality had such a carefree life that I had to make things a little more difficult for her, so as to lend the narrative some dramatic tension!

Kylemore Abbey School - Liberty Silk, page 243
Kylemore Abbey School – Liberty Silk, page 243

What kind of research did you do of the locations in the book?

The Irish locations I was already familiar with, especially the area around Kylemore Abbey, where both Lisa and Cat were educated: my daughter boarded there. Sadly, I didn’t make it as far as Hollywood, but I did travel to Italy, where I followed the route my grandparents took, as prototype backpackers. They spent some weeks in Florence – the pension they stayed in is still there, overlooking the river Arno – my grandfather made a sketch of the view. In the Piazza della Repubblica I sat at the terrace of the café where they celebrated my grandfather’s birthday, and where Jessie gave him the beautiful sketchbook that features in the novel. 

Antibes, 1920s - Liberty Silk page 321
Antibes, 1920s – Liberty Silk page 321

How did you ‘get into’ the time periods? Paris in particular

I am one of the few people I know who actually hates Paris! Any time I have visited, there have been rail strikes or museum strikes or it has been raining nonstop, and I can’t stand the snootiness of the Parisiennes. However, reading about the city was fascinating; biographies of Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway and Picasso were particularly helpful, and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London was an invaluable insight into the seedy underbelly of the city.

The Hollywood sign. Until 1949, it read ‘Hollywoodland’. Liberty Silk, page 86.
The Hollywood sign. Until 1949, it read ‘Hollywoodland’. Liberty Silk, page 86.

As for Hollywood – I have countless books set around the time of its glamorous heyday, which were invaluable for research purposes. Writing the book gave me a great excuse to re-read Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, many of which are set in not just the places, but also the eras I covered.  

Are all the characters based on real people? Can you tell us more about your grandmother?

She was a true adventuress! One of the first women to graduate from Cambridge, she was passionate about the arts: in later life she hosted a literary salon in her house in Edinburgh. My grandfather – Scotch – was indeed an artist: he was the template of the rather sexy art master in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Celebrities in the novel – Coco Chanel, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Lana Turner, Picasso, Don McCullin – appear as themselves. The Greek Count, who is the most sinister of my cast of characters, met my grandparents in Florence. He was travelling with a beautiful child, and my grandmother genuinely feared for her wellbeing.

liberty silk

Do you own a dress from Liberty’s?

Yes – the actual evening dress that features in the novel came from Liberty, and now belongs to me. It was handed down from my grandmother, along with other artefacts that provide key plot points in the novel – the cabochon sapphire ring, the Egyptian charm, the leather-bound sketchbook and – of course – the original cache of letters. You can see images of all these heirlooms on www.pinterest.com/libertysilk/

the Liberty Silk dress as featured in the novel
the Liberty Silk dress as featured in the novel

If you could buy something from Liberty’s what would it be and why?

I would love to have the chaise longue that belonged to my grandmother reupholstered in archive Liberty print.

Which song or songs could we listen to when reading the novel – to get us in to the mood for the change of setting?

What a great question! It would have to be Ragtime for Jessie; Big Band dance music for Lisa, and Jimi Hendrix or early Rolling Stones for Cat.

And with that the cake is further demolished and we put a record on the gramophone and start up a ragtime number. Before we know it we’re both out of our chaise longues and dancing to the music. Best leave it there I think. We could be here a while. Take it away!

Magic sometimes happens – UK and USA – Margaret James

magicA transatlantic love story where magic could really happen…

Story

Rosie Denham is a PR girl based in London has just spent a year in Paris and despite her best efforts has not managed to find love. 

Patrick Riley, from Minnesota, also has love issues since his wife has left him for a Brit – so when he meets Rosie, he’s not exactly happy to hear her accent.

Rosie and Pat certainly are from different sides of the tracks – she’s British, privileged whilst he was raised in poverty in Missouri, has wife who’s left him and two kids.

Magic will need to happen for these two!

Place and setting

Minnehaha park - where Patrick and Lexie have a house nearby. Saint Paul - This area is where half the population lives and is a big conurbation The Minnesota Orchestra - where they go to a concert here Paris sorbonne - where rosie had studied London - where Rosie is based.
Minnehaha Park, Minnesota – where Patrick and Lexie have a house nearby.
Saint Paul, Minnesota – This area is where half the population lives and is a big conurbation
The Minnesota Orchestra – where they go to a concert 
Paris: Sorbonne – where Rosie had studied
London – where Rosie is based.

Rosie is the latest member of the Denham family to have her story told – fans of earlier books will know of the other characters of the family but this in no way spoils your enjoyment or understanding of the book for this is a standalone too.

Starting in August with events taking place over a whole year, the dual storyline and the dual UK- USA setting sets the scene for  long distance love, transatlantic misunderstandings and cultural chaos which are all there of course making this a jaunt across the ocean and back again.

Rosie’s  home is London but it’s her jaunts to Paris that we liked – she pictures herself siting on her suitcase in the Gare du Nord sobbing like Linda Raddlett did in Nancy Mitford’s ‘The Pursuit of Love’ and we immediately warmed to the girl. With an imagination like that, who can’t hug her?

Patrick’s stomping ground is Minneapolis where we find him rueing the day he and his wife moved to an apartment with views of the Minneapolis, Minnehaha park and the Mississippi River “so awesome she fell in love with it.”

Accidents, cultural misunderstandings and a girl with a wanderlust filled heart….Will they, won’t they? Well, it’s a fun transatlantic journey to finding out.

magic

Review by Sarah J:

Never having read any of Margaret James books before and unsure of what a transatlantic love story would make me feel – it was  pleasant surprise. Funny and witty dialogue, funny and crazy characters and a warm fuzzy feel to the whole book. Loved the Minnesota settings in particular since most of the action is set there and you really get a feel for the surroundings and in Rosie’s case the view from a visitor who is gradually falling in love in the city. I did and I really want to to now in the fall to eat pumpkins and see the leaves change colour and if I meet a man like patrick so much the better.

There are lots of obstacles along the way when these two characters meet however and it wouldn’t be realistic if there wasn’t. But it was their back story and real life worries and concerns which added depth and made the book more rounded.

Light and fluffy reading not for some but this was a nice change from what I usually read.

Liberty Silk – Hollywood, Finistere, London – Kate Beaufoy

liberty silk

Not a set costume piece as the cover and title might suggest but rather a journey back in time to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood of the 40s and Paris of  1919 and the secrets hidden behind the polished facades

Story in a nutshell

France 1919: Jessie is celebrating the last heady days of her honeymoon. But when her husband suddenly disappears she finds herself bereft. Until a chance encounter thrusts her into the centre of the intoxicating world of Parisian high life.

Hollywood 1945: Lisa has come a long way from her quiet, unassuming life in London and is taking Hollywood by storm. But all that glitters is not gold, and as the smoke and mirrors of the lifestyle she so longed for shatter around her there are some secrets she can never escape.

Liberty Silk tells the stories of three different women in three different eras, Jessie, Baba and headstrong Cat. Their stories intertwine in unexpected ways and a fascinating account of different lives and different eras unfolds.

Place and setting

From London to Finistere to Hollywood, this is quite a journey!
From London to Finistere to Hollywood, this is quite a journey!

Liberty Silk tells the stories of three different women in three different eras –

Paris 1919 –  Jessie is a newlywed and so when her husband vanishes while on their honeymoon, she is devastated and bereft. In a strange city on her own,

Baba soon finds that the dreams she had of hollywood are not all the are cracked up to be and that the reality behind the glitz is something else entirely. She finds herself in situations that she doesn’t want to be in and has decisions to make but not before she explores some of the hollywood landscape further.

London, 1965 – Cat is a photographer who really believes and wants to make a difference in the world with her work. The reality of being in some of the most shocking and war torn places around the world really show her the brutality of human behaviour and suffering and it opens her eyes to so much.

It’s not just the settings that are evocative of a different time and place. For in which other novel do we ‘meet’  Coco Chanel, the Fitzgeralds and Pablo Picasso?

The landscapes and settings are all so wonderfully evoked so when you realise that the author Kate Beaufoy wrote this based on letters from her Grandmother, Jessie Beaufoy, who fell in love with a painter in France, the authentic touch is something that is invaluable and places the novel on another level.

As an extra treat at the end of the book, Kate has written a beautiful situation involving her Grandmother, as well as a quiz to find out which character from the book you would be – it’s a really lovely little touch to finish off.

liberty silk

After having read TheDress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans and The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, this caught my eye as it seemed to be as sumptuous and fashion orientated as the others. It  unravels in a vintage style theme with letters written long ago about a love affair with a painter during WW1 forming the basis of this lovely winding story. The real inspiration for this story were the letters written by the author’s grandmother jessie Beaufoy a character in the book and this makes for a unique and poignant angle for the story.

The dress – from Liberty’s of London of course – is a feature and is part of the heritage passed down here from one woman to another,coming to mean a lot more than  a simple dress.

It was lovely to read how the author got the idea for this novel from real life  – her own – and how she used this to blend and weave a story of fiction through the ages that all of us could enjoy and take heart in.

If you desire the cover and wish to indulge in the time periods it suggests then you could not do better than to lounge in your finest silk dress and feather bower whilst reading this, a glass of wine in one hand, reclining on a vintage chair.

Its sad, poignant yet full of hope as three different women in different times find their own way of getting through life and doing the best they can. From the glittering streets of Hollywood to the artistic alleyways of Paris, this is a whirlwind tour of some stunning and thrilling locations that you will not have experienced before – well not like this!

Quite remarkable.