Newsletter, July 2019
I know that I am late writing this when I begin to receive emails from some of you asking why they have not received my Newsletter! My sincere apologies. I have two excuses: the publication on 16th May of The House on the Edge of the Cliff took me off on a fabulous book tour in England, Ireland and Spain and this ate up the best part of a month. I was not back in France till mid-June by which time we were preparing for our summer party, which was to celebrate Michel’s special birthday. That was last weekend. The first guests arrived on the Thursday before the event and the last left on Tuesday. It was a great deal of hard work but it was also enormous fun. We had four birthday cakes – two for Saturday and two for Sunday. Also because we discovered that one of our guests was having a birthday that same weekend. A friend built us a temporary dance floor for the garden; we had badminton and basketball competitions. When induced to play, I came last so concentrated my energies on providing food and drink and hospitality. It was exceedingly hot so I was very relieved we had bought so many litres of mineral water and soft drinks. The rosé came later when it was cooler. We had guests from Finland, Berlin, Frankfurt, Kent, Surrey, Paris, Bordeaux, Taiwan, Ireland and other places I cannot call to mind right now. These are the kind of parties I love; when I turn my head and catch three or four different languages being spoken at the same table, and listening to friends speaking languages I wasn’t aware they speak.
These last few days, Michel and I have been clearing up. I seem to have been washing and folding bed linen for days! I enjoy the process of putting everything back together almost as much as the party itself. It gives me the opportunity to relive it all again.
So, now life is back on a calmer keel and I am spending long days at my desk preparing what lies ahead. The work to come. I am picking up the threads of the novel I was writing before I went away to begin the book tour and publicity for The House on the Edge of the Cliff. If you haven’t yet found an opportunity to read The House on the Edge of the Cliff, please do. The reviews are pretty amazing and I am thrilled by the feedback the book has been receiving. Wherever you live, bookdepository.com delivers worldwide for free.
You may have read how hot it has been here in France. We call it la canicule – an excessive heat-wave. The temps have reached as high as 37C where we are and even higher over in the west towards Spain. I was in Paris for a couple of brief visits during the worst of it and it really gave me a sense of how desperate the future will be if we don’t put a brake on our carbon dioxide emissions. Whenever possible, M and I are choosing to travel by train instead of flying or driving and we are installing a hybrid heating system and studying the most efficient ways to convert to solar energy. Wherever we find a spot, we plant an extra tree, add bushes, green the patches where nothing was growing. It all seems so insignificant compared to what needs to be done. Even so, if we each do all that we can …
I have been spending time with lots of reading. This year, during my book tour, I attended Listowel Writer’s Week in the lovely heritage town of Listowel in County Kerry, Ireland. I was there to talk about my own book, to give a three-day workshop on Writing Memoir and also as a judge for the very prestigious Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award with a prize of 15,000 euros. We were two judges: myself and fellow writer, Ian McGuire. We were sent, I think, fifty-one novels to read and choose from. Our first job was to narrow the choice down to a shortlist of five and then to pick the winner. I began reading the first of the books over Christmas and was reading nothing but submissions for the prize through to March when Ian and I discussed and settled upon our shortlist. It was a tough call. Three novels we more or less agreed upon without too much debate. The two others took some negotiation as we both had different ideas on which to include. I then re-read our chosen five. All in all, it was very time-consuming work, but it was rewarding and immense fun. I learned a great deal both about the art of novel writing and Ireland. Irish history, past and present. Huge thanks to the team at Listowel for offering me this opportunity. I even got to sit with Colm Tóibín, President of the Festival, at the award ceremony. He is such a hero of mine, I was completely tongue-tied, which is not ideal when you are about to make a speech!
Our winner, by the way, was David Park’s very moving Travelling in a Strange Land. Do look out for it. It has a quiet dignity about it, is beautifully written and full of profoundly-felt emotion. I have read this novel three times now and I love it because it is honest. The emotions are not sensationalized; they run deep and really hit home.
So, the first half of 2019 has been very busy and very fruitful. In some ways, a turning point. I am looking forward to quieter days now, to get back to my own writing and to mull over all that I have learned during my travels and experiences so far this year.
To those of you who have bought – and reviewed – The House on the Edge of the Cliff. Thank you. I am hugely grateful. My next novel is going to be quite different. I THINK! I never know until the first draft is in.
We will spend the upcoming summer days – August when France comes to a standstill unless you are in the tourist trade – at the Olive Farm. These are intended to be peaceful days, reading, writing, swimming, working on the land, playing with the dogs and enjoying one another’s company. What a gift.
Wherever you are for these hot days, or cooler winter days if you are reading this in the southern hemisphere, I wish you good company and a challenging pile of good books.
Yesterday, I finished a re-read of Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios and am now trying to get myself a copy of Jean Negulesco’s 1944 film adapted from the novel and starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Anyone seen it? One of my pleasures is watching movies in the afternoon when it is so hot outside you want to hide away. Last summer, I went through my entire collection of Italian neo-realist cinema. Truly extraordinary. Anna Magnani is one of the finest actresses to ever set foot in front of a camera. And De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves is one of my all-time favourite films.
So, that’s my summer lined up.
Thank you for reading this. My apologies once again for the delay in sending this out.