Some months ago, the blog featured an interview with Carol Rivers, the best selling author who usually locates her stories on the Isle of Dogs.
Her books are usually based in the first half of the twentieth century and have been widely praised for their historical accuracy and gritty realism.
Carol has just released her latest book ‘Together for Christmas’ which follows the destinies of three friends faced with realities of the first world war. Although the book is fiction, it was the experiences of Carol’s Grandfather in the Great War that have been influential in her writing career. How influential is explained by Carol herself who contributed the following piece.
“Home is Where the Heart is.”
A saying that perhaps the troops often used to console themselves as they struggled for survival in the deploring conditions of the mud caked, flooded and rat infested trenches of the Great War, 1914-1918. Shell-shock, trench fever, dysentery, gangrene, hypothermia and dozens more diseases were their daily companions. As a small child, my Granddad, a volunteer veteran from Chapel House Street on the Isle of Dogs where we lived in East London, told me of his experience tied to a gun wheel. Disorientated by the ear-splitting shelling, he was accused of being a deserter. He wasn’t executed but flogged and sent to a field hospital as, close to death, he slipped into delirium. It was during this time that he woke to the sight of a soldier gazing in through the hospital window. Granddad knew this man had died and was passing over his strength in those few seconds of intimacy. Granddad recovered. But mentally he was scarred and rarely talked of his ‘angel’ for fear of being ridiculed. So sharing his other-worldly moment with a child, was a gift to us both for it released his secret shame and triggered the inner life of my creativity. Unaware of all this at the time, I remember asking him what the man looked like. Granddad replied that his ‘angel’ wore the mask of every soldier dying on the battlefield. This is a vision that has never left me. The vision is where my own story began. My home and my heart are my books, telling the stories that perhaps might not have been told, had Granddad not confided in me. I am returned every day to the Isle of Dogs as it was in the first half of the 20th century. I write ‘ghosts’ who are living, breathing and fiercely alive. The Island has never meant more to me than it does now in this Centenary year, when I am able to honour The Fallen with my book, TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS. And rightly so, as many of us now would not be here today, if it wasn’t for them.
published by Simon & Schuster 23rd October 2014
August 1914, London. Britain has just declared war on Germany, and the whole country holds its breath. Flora, Hilda and Will, who grew up together in St Boniface Orphanage sit in the sunshine in Hyde Park on a rare day off, discussing the impending war and the changes it might bring to their lives. Will means to go off to fight, Hilda hopes to better her current lot in life as a maid at the charitable institute, Hailing House, but Flora is content with her job as assistant to the Isle of Dogs’ kindly Doctor Tapper. Taking a vow, they pledge to always be there for each other, come what may. Little do they know that the conflict will not be over by Christmas as supposed by the government and each one of the three friends are drawn terrifyingly into the turmoil of war.
TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS can be purchased at Amazon and most online stores, supermarkets and bookshops.
If you would like to buy a copy of the book, it is available here
And if you would like more information on the Carol’s books at Simon & Schuster, you can visit the publisher’s website here