Dear Readers and Friends,
This is an exciting month for me for several reasons, but let me begin with a bit of non-book news and then continue with the professional afterwards.
Michel and I have just returned from a very short trip to Puglia in southern Italy. The winter has been very harsh, hasn’t it? Here at the Olive Farm, we lost six giant pines on our land, blown down by terrible storms in January. I was very upset by their loss particularly as one fell on several of the small almonds we had planted in memory of my mother. I am keeping my fingers crossed that these small girls will survive and be back in good shape and blossoming before too long. As we haven’t had a holiday in a long while and we only had a few days to spare, I suggested to Michel that we go and feast our eyes on ancient olive trees. A therapeutic jaunt for the soul and senses!
As many of you will know, there is little in life that rewards me more than strolling through flourishing olive groves that have been fruiting for centuries, millennia even. Here, below, is a photograph I took last week of an olive tree close to Ostuni in Puglia. It was planted by Romans and is dated at around 2,300 years old. And there are dozens close to the Roman road, the Via Traiana, in Puglia, growing peacefully, producing olives for pressing. It is such a humbling experience to be in the presence of these trees. Humbling and life-affirming.
There has been plenty of coverage in the British press over the last few weeks about Suffragettes. 6th February 2018 was the centenary of The Representation of the People Act. It gained its royal assent on 6th February 1918 and gave the vote to all men over twenty-one, whatever their class and circumstances, in Britain and Ireland. It also gave to certain women the right to vote. Not all women were enfranchised at that time but 8.4 million were. To be eligible, the woman had to be over thirty and hold property with a rateable value of £5 or more or whose husband did. The poorer women were still at a disadvantage and were given no suffrage rights at that time. It took until 1928 for suffrage to be extended to all women over the age of twenty-one. Nonetheless, it was an essential first step.
To mark this important centenary, Scholastic Books have re-jacketed my little book for adolescents, Suffragette, giving it the famous colours of the movement.
I think it looks terrific and I am thrilled to see the book taking on a new lease of life.
Remaining with the focus on women, 8th March is International Women’s Day. It is also publication day for the paperback of THE LOST GIRL. Hooray, I am really rather excited about it. To mark its arrival Michael Joseph books will be running a little photo competition. The idea is that on their Twitter page, @MichaelJBooks, as well as on my Olive Farm Facebook page, from 1st of March up to publication day, each day we will post a photograph taken somewhere in France. There will be a question attached to it. All you have to do is comment/retweet on my post with the answer and you could win a paperback copy of both THE LOST GIRL and THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER. The winner will be selected at random each day at 5pm. Then the books will be off in the post to the lucky winners.
There you will find the competition promoted from early March onwards.
I hope you can follow all the above!
If you prefer to simply order your own copy of the book, here is the Amazon link for UK readers.
Might I suggest readers outside the UK, go to bookdepository.com. They ship anywhere worldwide for FREE.
I have written a short piece for the Penguin website describing my inspirations for THE LOST GIRL. If you would like to read it, you can find the link here.
There has been a great deal in the media recently about the way female characters are used in drama and storytelling. They are frequently raped or brutalised, portrayed as mistresses, bimbos, whores or long-suffering wives. I did a little breakdown of both THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER and THE LOST GIRL.
Here is what I have posted on FB and Twitter:
In my last two novels, THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER and THE LOST GIRL, the ages of the leading female characters are:
1) early forties,
Only one dies and that is from natural causes. None are raped or mutilated.
In the novel I am writing now, the female lead begins at 16 and goes through to her sixties.
Here’s to Women of a Certain Age who love and respect men and, for the most part, have healthy sex lives and who enjoy the company of other women.
There is drama without rape and female abuse. And older women ROCK.
It might seem curious to include this summation in a Newsletter but NOW is a time of important changes for us women. Just as it was in different ways one hundred years ago this month of February. I am proud to be a part of this new movement. I told my #MeToo story to The Guardian last October. I have worked for so many decades an actress, have spent the major part of my life in an industry where women have had to work extremely hard, usually for less money, to carve their place and to be recognised for their own worth and talent.
I am attempting to include what I have experienced in my writing. I am proud to write stories about women and for women, and for many fabulous male readers too.
That’s enough from me for now.
Our almond trees, those not damaged, are in blossom. They herald the arrival of spring. My goodness, e need that sense of new beginnings in the world right now, don’t you agree?
Thank you for reading this. I hope you will be inspired to the read the books if you haven’t already. If you have, Merci beaucoup.
Peace and love,