Release date: December 8, 2017
Publisher: Top Hat Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
No-one thought Bertie Simmonds could speak. So, when he is heard singing an Easter hymn, this is not so much the miracle some think as a bolt drawn back, releasing long-repressed emotions with potentially devastating consequences… A decade later, Bertie marries Anstace, a woman old enough to be his mother, and another layer of mystery starts to peel away. Beginning in a village in Kent and set between the two World Wars, That They Might Lovely Be stretches from the hell of Flanders, to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast, recounting a love affair which embraces the living and the dead.
I’m so pleased to be the stop on the blog tour for That They Might Lovely Be today! I have a wonderful Q & A with the author to share today.
Top 5 with David Matthews
Top 5 books
Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White – a brilliant reworking of the events surrounding the death of Christ, set in Australia, this novel reminds me that the Christian story can be played out time and again throughout history
Waterland by Graham Swift – a beautifully narrated ramble through the secrets of the past, tangled with evocative description of place
Middlemarch by George Eliot – a richly woven tale of middle England in the 19th century bringing a wonderful array of characters to life, all finely nuanced and caught up in the preoccupations of their circumstances
Wake by Anna Hope – one of the most moving books I have read recently; revolving around the internment of the
Unknown Soldier, this novel captures the devastation and courageous endurance which follows loss and grief. It is a beautifully written elegy.
Saturday by Ian McEwan – his best book, in my opinion: a tight portrayal of the anxieties and preoccupations haunting modern urban living.
Top 5 films
The Third Man – wonderfully atmospheric with the use of music and shadow and the most poignant end sequence of all.
Brief Encounter – a period film about emotional restraint set against the most searing music; sacrifice can be exquisite.
Ex Machina – a film for our times, where human emotion confronts the chilling independence of the machine; we are at the mercy of what we create.
Diva – a French film directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix which focuses on a young man’s obsession with beauty. The soundtrack is great.
Went the Day Well? – an Ealing Studio’s working of a story by Graham Greene. It is set in the heart of England during the Second World War and has stayed with me as an exploration of how ordinary, domesticity copes with overwhelming crisis.
Top 5 songs
Bailero – Joseph Canteloupe from ‘Songs of the Auvergne’
All By Myself – Eric Carmen
Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
Adelaide’s Lament – Frank Loesser form ‘Guys and Dolls’
Smoke gets in Your Eyes – Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach, sung by Dinah Washington
Top 5 holiday destinations
Any rural retreat in France – good food and wine, beautiful scenery and a culture which says the quality of life and simple pleasures are more important than material progress
Alnwick, Northumberland – a quintessential English town and you can’t ever get a more stimulating blend of countryside, wild coastline and amazing castles; it’s great in all weathers
Great Blasket, Dingle peninsula, Ireland – this is the most western point in Europe, it’s wild and the weather can be dreadful but there is atmosphere in abundance; every Englishman should learn Irish history from a native Irishman standing on these sea-tossed shores
Sicily – there is over two thousand years of history here with Ancient Greek and Norman remains. The coast is stunning and the interior far more lush than you’d expect. There is also a palpable sense of the mafia’s shadow with a thriving culture of tax-avoidance. And the holiday-maker will see obvious poverty and that is an important reminder of how the world is.
My garden, when everyone else in the family has gone away – having the chance to retreat into your own space is a luxury. I work on my garden so that it is a beautiful place to sit and also a place to potter if I want to empty my mind.
Top 5 tips for writing a debut novel
Plan the plot carefully in advance but do not be afraid to let it develop its own shape during the course of writing.
Imagine the characters as rounded people and never allow them to behave out of character. Instead, rework the mechanics of the plot if necessary.
Draft, re-draft and re-draft again, looking out for the patterns of meaning which you (or your sub-conscious) have laid down and highlight or suppress them as you think appropriate.
Direct speech should be used sparingly; it rarely helps drive the plot forward but should reveal depths of character and motivation.
The ‘Great Literary Equation’: (plot + character + setting) x language = themes. The values of these components may change from genre to genre but this reminds you that what you want to leave the reader with at the end of your book is a fresh perspective on the ideas that the novel explores.
Big thanks to David for joining me today!