I am two novels along since I published THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER with Penguin in March 2016. For those who read my post last month you will know that my latest novel, THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF, to be published 16th May 2019, is set in Paris during the 1968 student riots, and from there the story unfolds.
Usually, when a book or any work of mine has been completed, I move on. Except for editorial or marketing purposes, I find it very difficult to revisit the material because I worry over how I might have improved it. THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER seems to be an exception. Not because I am pleased with my work but because there is such a richesse of material that I might have used, and might still use one day.
The story is set on a family-owned vineyard in the south of France. Within the family, there are secrets and factions. Jane, the English woman who moves into the family when she marries Luc, the French son of Clarisse, the widowed proprietor of the vineyard, only begins to discover how deep and dark are those secrets when a tragedy occurs. Clarisse, her mother-in-law, is a pied noir, a black foot, a French woman, an ex-colonialist, born and raised in Algeria. Her son Luc was also born there. They fled to France at the end of the Algerian war in the summer of 1962, soon after De Gaulle gave independence to Algeria. Once safely arrived in France, they set up home on the vineyard, which is where the main action of the novel takes place.
I must be honest and say that when I delivered the book to my agent and it went to auction there was a background seam within the story that I had not entirely dared to address. The shadows lurking from the Algerian past of two of the main characters were hinted at, but not followed through. It was only when Maxine Hitchcock, my editor at Michael Joseph, Penguin, acquired the book and sent through her notes to me that I was encouraged to face head on those shadows, the ghosts I was writing about.
Behind the beauty and seductive landscape of the South of France, there lies a a more lurid past, Luc and Clarisse’s, set in French-ruled Algeria.
Why am I returning in my thoughts to THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER and that bloody period in French history? President Emmanuel Macron has recently made a gesture that might go some way to healing this troubled past.