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Archive for the tag “1942”

‘The School Teacher of Saint-Michel’ by Sarah Steele ~ @headlinepg @sarah_l_steele #BlogTour #Extract

‘The School Teacher of Saint-Michel’ was published by Headline Review on the 17th March 2022 in paperback and is also available in eBook format and Audiobook. As part of the blog tour I have an extract from the book.

Synopsis

My darling girl, I need you to find someone for me . . .’

France, 1942. At the end of the day, the schoolteacher releases her pupils. She checks they have their identity passes, and warns them not to stop until the German guards have let them through the barrier that separates occupied France from Free France. As the little ones fly across the border and into their mothers’ arms, she breathes a sigh of relief. No one is safe now. Not even the children.

Berkshire, present day. A letter left to her by her beloved late grandmother Gigi takes Hannah Stone on a journey deep into the heart of the Dordogne landscape. As she begins to unravel a forgotten history of wartime bravery and sacrifice, she discovers the heartrending secret that binds her grandmother to a village schoolteacher, the remarkable Lucie Laval . . .

Extract

Prologue


In the peaceful pause between day and night, she steps out into the long shadows of the orchard, its treetops brushed with splashes of coral and gold. She weaves around the trees, her basket pressed against her hip, plucking the ripest cherries for her table, as she has done for countless harvests in this little corner of France.
Suddenly, like the deer in the woods beyond the stream, she freezes as dark clouds bubble on the horizon, extinguishing the last of the sun’s rays. Thunderous booms echo across the soft hills as bright flashes of light dance like fireflies in the distance. Yet this strange summer storm will not bring the release of the rain the parched ground craves, nor break the crackling tension in the air. And in the meantime, life must go on, even if it is a shadow of the lives they knew not so long ago. The children must go to school, the fields must be ploughed, meals prepared, livings made, prayers said in the cool, dark church, and the summer harvest collected.
A squadron of planes fly low overhead, shaking the ground as they mimic the annual migration of geese, and she quickly fills the basket before hurrying inside. She glances back, all the grief of the world in her eyes as she searches the darkness
, then pulls the shutters closed against the night. They have survived another day.

Gigi woke suddenly, her frail heart tapping out a frantic rhythm. Even after all these years, long-buried memories of the war still floated to the surface of her dreams as though it were yesterday, urging her not to forget the people she had left behind, and the debt she owed them.
She looked out of the window as a flurry of petals caught the breeze, a candyfloss cloud tumbling along the street, as blossom drifts gathered in gutters and around tree roots that burst up through the grey London pavement. How many springs had she watched the monochrome scene transform itself into a Japanese watercolour? And each spring the blossom awakened the burden that dragged on her like heavy fruit on the branch.
A group of young mothers walked past the wide bay window, babies in pushchairs in front of them and trailing toddlers behind. She watched a little boy stop at the tree outside, spinning around its trunk and laughing, and she was transported again to those long-gone days of her dreams.
She closed her eyes once more, and like an old cine film on a whirring projector, images of her beloved France flickered before her: the sun-bleached orchard and the shallow stream bouncing diamonds of light across its bubbling surface; a couple dancing beneath the trees to the strains of an old folk song whilst children wove around them, gorging themselves on sweet, sticky cherries, as for a brief moment the war raging across Europe was forgotten. This was how she wanted to remember her motherland during those terrible times – the memories of dark woods and dangerous city streets, damp cellars and abandoned buildings were too painful for her old heart to recall.
She looked now at the photographs on the mantelpiece: more than most, she understood the value of family, love, loyalty; knew how far it was possible to go in order to protect those one cared for. She knew too that the ties formed all those years ago had never weakened, and that those she had left behind would always be a part of her.
Again she felt her breath catch. She had become accustomed to this now: her heart was indeed broken, fighting to complete its lifetime’s allocation of beats. Only difficult, invasive surgery could help her now, and she was too tired. She had lived her life as best she could, and there was only one thing left undone, one debt unpaid.
She had waited too long. She could see that now. There would be no more springs, no more time to put things right unless she gave her story to another.
She reached across to the little table beside her, and picked up a photograph of her granddaughter as a little girl. She had been lucky: of course she adored her son, but the easy friendship with dear Hannah that had grown over the years was a gift she cherished. Gigi had passed on to Hannah the arts of perfect pastry and an exquisitely tied silk scarf, the bond between them as close as mother and daughter. And now that little girl had her own life and her own love, her own pain: her dear, kind Hannah who reminded Gigi so much of someone from her distant past, the bittersweet memories of those war-ravaged times tugging at her heart.
Hannah, her petite fille, who understood what it was to live with something that ate away at you, and for whom she prayed this task might offer some balm. Hannah, who might put things right for her.
She eased herself out of the chair, wincing as a pain shot down her arm, and fetched her writing paper and an envelope from the old bureau. Her arthritic hand paused over the tissue-thin paper, ink pooling at the expectant nib of her pen as she searched for the words.
My darling Hannah, she finally began, breaking off only to catch her rapidly shortening breath. And then, within a few short lines, it was done, and she folded the letter inside the delicate lilac envelope. The effort had drained her, and her beautiful copperplate handwriting wavered as she wrote Hannah’s name, the final h trailing across the paper.
She placed the letter beside her on the table and closed her eyes once more, unable to resist the weight of her eyelids and the sleep that overcame her like a sedative, so that dreams and memories were indistinguishable as she once again stood in a shady orchard, smelling the sun-warmed grass as a sudden peace wrapped its arms around her.
She had plucked the heavy fruit from the branch and handed it to one she trusted, and at last her heart was free.

‘The School Teacher of Saint Michel’ is available to buy from:-

Amazon UK

About The Author

Sarah Steele is the author of USA Today bestseller THE MISSING PIECES OF NANCY MOON and THE SCHOOLTEACHER OF SAINT-MICHEL, published in 2021.

After training in London as a classical pianist and violinist, Sarah joined the world of publishing as an editorial assistant at Hodder and Stoughton. She was for many years a freelance editor, and now lives in the vibrant Gloucestershire town of Stroud.

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Blog Tour – ‘Plenty Under the Counter’ by Kathleen Hewitt ~#RandomThingsTours @annecater @I_W_M @angelamarymar

I am beyond thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour together with Short Book and Scribes.  ‘Plenty Under the Counter’ was originally published in 1943 and has now been published in paperback by the Imperial War Museum along with three other wartime classics to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

I would like to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour.  Thanks also to Anne and the publisher for my review copy.

You will find out my thoughts on ‘Plenty Under the Counter’ in a minute.

 

 

Book Blurb

London, 1942. Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house. With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder. Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more to the inhabitants of the boarding house than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive. Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author.

‘With a dead body on the first page and a debonair RAF pilot as the sleuth, this stylish whodunit takes you straight back to Blitzed London and murder most foul. Several plausible suspects, a femme fatale, witty dialogue, memorable scenes and unexpected twists it boasts everything a great whodunit should have, and more.’ ANDREW ROBERTS, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

 

My Review

I really enjoyed reading ‘Plenty Under the Counter’. I thought the introduction to this story was just wonderful. I also loved the cover and spent quite a while looking at it. I think that this book being republished along with three other wartime classics by the Imperial War Museum is such a good idea.

I found it very interesting reading a story that was originally published in 1943. I love fiction that is set during or after the war, but to read a book that was actually written all those years ago was actually pretty amazing, especially as the author herself experienced life in London during the Second World War. I really liked the style of writing and the way the words just flowed.

The story opened with Flight-Lieutenant David Heron waking up to the news that a murder had taken place in the back garden of where he was staying. From then on, his interest was piqued, and he was determined to help solve the crime before his service resumed.

There was much more to things than just the murder and I felt that I got quite a lot out of this story. The black market played a big part as well.

There were quite a number of interesting characters in the story. My favourites were David and his girlfriend, Tess. I found it hard to like many of the others though.

This was a classic whodunnit and it had me trying to work out who the murderer was. It was nice seeing all the pieces of the puzzle coming together and as David’s investigations progressed, I started to suspect at least a couple of people. I wasn’t overly surprised at who the killer turned out to be I have to say.

If you like classic crime, then I recommend you read ‘Plenty Under the Counter’. You will find yourself hooked.
 

‘Plenty Under the Counter’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-

https://amzn.to/2lOgzUn

 

~~~~~

I hope my review has left you wanting to read ‘Plenty Under the Counter’.  Below is some information about all four titles.

 

The Four titles are:

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron – A vivid and moving account of preparations for DDay and the advance into Normandy. Published in the 75th anniversary year of the D-Day landings, this is based on the author’s first-hand experience of D-Day and has been described by Antony Beevor as ‘undoubtedly one of the very greatest British novels of the Second World War.’

Alexander Baron was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter and his London novels have a wide following. This was his first novel.

 

Trial by Battle by David Piper – A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

 

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle – A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.

 

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt – a murder mystery about opportunism and the black market set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz. ‘With a dead body on the first page and a debonair RAF pilot as the sleuth, this stylish whodunit takes you straight back to Blitzed London and murder most foul. Several plausible suspects, a femme fatale, witty dialogue, memorable scenes and unexpected twists – it boasts everything a great whodunit should have, and more.’ Andrew Roberts.

Kathleen Hewitt was a British author and playwright who wrote more than 20 novels in her lifetime. She was part of an artistic set in 1930’s London which included Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

 

 

IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

 

 

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