31 March 2017

Guest Post: The Other Side of the Street (Lavender Road 5) by Helen Carey

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It's 1944. London's citizens are weary of air raids and rationing. But there are rumours of an invasion of France. Is the tide of war turning?

The Other Side of the Street is my fifth Lavender Road novel. Set in London in 1944, it can either be read alone or as part of the series, and like its predecessors it follows the lives of several people living in one London street. This time the focus is on two young women, who now, as victory finally begins to edge nearer with the Allied invasion of France, find that the war seems determined to throw a spanner in their plans for future happiness.

I love writing about the Second World War. For me it is a fascinating period of history. So much happened in those eventful years, even for those who weren’t actually fighting. With almost constant Luftwaffe bombing, plus Hitler’s V1 and V2 revenge missiles, people on the Home Front were also in considerable danger.

I have always been impressed by the extraordinary courage and resilience that Londoners showed at that time, and I think, more than anything else, that is what has always drawn me to the period. As well as the almost constant fear of death or injury, they had to cope with hardships that most of us would certainly find unacceptable these days; rationing, the black-out, property damage or destruction, reduced fuel and water, lack of petrol and gas, conscription into boring (or sometimes even hazardous) war work, restrictions on clothing and make-up, censorship, and of course the worry about loved ones serving overseas.

My research this time led me to the fact of young women being enlisted, often against their will, into the female sections of the armed forces. It made for fascinating reading, and then, by a stroke of luck (something which often seems to happen when I am embroiled in research!), I discovered that one of my neighbours (now a celebrated artist) actually served in the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Army, and she kindly allowed me to base some of my character’s exploits on her own real life experiences.

Putting characters in difficult circumstances is always interesting, and for the pretty, well-to-do, and somewhat self-centred young widow, Louise Rutherford, the grim realities of an ATS training camp come as a nasty shock!

My aim in writing is always to entertain, and to try to evoke the atmosphere of the war years, but I am also keen to focus on more general issues that my readers might find interesting, and I have used Louise to explore an aspect of life that I think we probably experience from time to time. That what we think we are like is not always the same as what other people think we are like. I’m sure we all occasionally feel misunderstood, especially perhaps by our friends and family. (In my experience doggedly held presumptions and faulty suppositions are often at the root of many a family rift!)

It’s as though people have made up their minds about our innate character and and can’t or won’t ever really accept that we might have the capacity to change. In THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, as well as struggling with military discipline and other wartime issues, Louise also finds herself struggling to try to convince people that she has (for various reasons) become a nicer person.

The Other Side of the Street will be published in hardback and as an eBook on 6 April 2017. The paperback will follow later in the year. In the meantime I am already hard at work on the next Lavender Road novel! This time my research has taken me to France, to visit the Musée de la Resistance in Grenoble, to see for myself the extraordinary courage and resilience that many local people in France showed in facing up to German occupation.

Helen Carey
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About the Author  

Helen Carey is best known as the author of the popular wartime Lavender Road series. The previous novel in the series, London Calling, was shortlisted for the RoNA Award for best Historical Romance. Helen also writes travel articles and short stories, and from time to time she teaches Creative Writing at various universities, specialising in story structure. She is also a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. Before being published herself, she worked for a literary agency and as a reader for several publishers. Having spent quite a lot of time in different parts of the world, Helen now lives mostly in Pembrokeshire in West Wales where she and her husband run their small coastal farm as a conservation project.  For more information about her and her books please visit her website www.helencareybooks.co.uk and find her on Facebook and Twitter @HelenCareyBooks. 

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