Published by Pan McMillan
Ebook and Paperback (25 January 2018)
I’m delighted to be hosting today’s blog tour for In Love and War. Sadly I haven’t been able to read this yet but it looks gorgeous and I will be getting to it as soon as I can. In the meantime I have an extract to share. My thanks to Alice for the invitation to take part in the tour.
You can also win a paperback copy – entry details are at the end of this post.
| About the Book |
Three women, once enemies. Their secrets will unite them.
The First World War is over. The war-torn area of Flanders near Ypres is no longer home to troops, but groups of tourists. Controversial battlefield tourism now brings hundreds of people to the area, all desperate to witness first-hand where their loved ones fell.
At the Hotel de la Paix in the small village of Hoppestadt, three women arrive, searching for traces of the men they have loved and lost.
Ruby is just twenty-one, a shy Englishwoman looking for the grave of her husband. Alice is only a little older but brimming with confidence; she has travelled all the way from America, convinced her brother is in fact still alive. Then there’s Martha, and her son Otto, who are not all they seem to be . . .
The three women in Liz Trenow’s In Love and War may have very different backgrounds, but they are united in their search for reconciliation: to resolve themselves to what the war took from them, but also to what life might still promise for the future . . .
Extract from first chapter of In Love and War
She viewed these twice-weekly visits to her in-laws as her duty to Bertie, a duty she would bear for the rest of her life. She was still his wife, after all, always would be. Mr and Mrs Barton frequently referred to her as ‘our daughter’. Who else did they have, now that he was gone?
But conversation was always sticky. Ivy seemed as insubstantial as thistledown, liable to blow away at the slightest wrong word. Albert senior was unchanging, gruff and uncommunicative, but at least he was usually solid and predictable. But she could never have foreseen this moment, this little Thomas Cook brochure, their faces so solemn and expectant.
‘We’ve some good friends who went on one of those tours,’ he said, and she began to relax. Perhaps he was just offering her the brochure by way of conversation. ‘They’ve recommended it to us. They found their son’s grave, you see. It was difficult, they said, but it gave them a great sense of solace.’
‘Are you considering it for yourselves?’ she asked.
‘We’ve thought about it, but . . .’ He inclined his head fractionally towards his wife, who was silently dabbing her eyes with a lacy handkerchief. ‘We wondered whether’ – he paused a moment – ‘whether you might go on our behalf?’
They’ve gone barmy, Ruby thought to herself. Me, travel to the battlefields, by myself? Wander around the trenches looking for signs of him, along with a load of gawping tourists? It was not just crazy, it was slightly distasteful.
Albert was still talking: ‘To pay our respects, as a family. As we don’t have a grave, you know.’
Oh, she knew all right, only too well. Bertie’s body had never been found. That was one of the hardest things: not knowing how he died, not being able to imagine where he lay. She still had nightmares, fuelled by photographs in the London Illustrated News that she could only look at through half-closed eyes, about his body entangled with those of others, entombed and rotting in a muddy crater somewhere near Ypres. She turned back to the brochure, but the sentences swam in her vision. She loved Bertie, of course she did, and always would. But surely this was a step too far? How would she ever survive seeing, for herself, those places of horror?
‘My dear?’ Albert prompted. ‘Would you be willing?’
‘I really don’t think I . . .’ she began, and then ran out of words. Surely they could not be asking her to go, alone, to this terrible place?
‘You hear these reports, you know . . .’ Ivy whispered into the silence.
It was a familiar refrain. For a few months after the armistice, with almost every visit to the Barton house, a newspaper cutting would be produced: photographs of men who had miraculously returned, skeletal but alive, having escaped from prisoner-of-war camps and walked hundreds of miles back from Germany, or who had hidden out in the woods of Flanders for months and even years, afraid to show themselves as deserters. She would be invited to speculate on what might have happened to Bertie – that he might have been taken prisoner, or just been injured and helped by a Belgian family who were keeping him safe – and on the possibility that he might just turn up one day.
Even though she knew it was infinitesimally unlikely, after these conversations she sometimes dreamed of it: a man walking out of the smoke of battle towards her, his face blackened with dirt, his uniform torn and his cap missing. And then that face would break into his beloved smile and she would gasp, unbelieving, running towards him.
She would wake, crying, watching the dawn rise through the curtains, hearing the birds tuning up for the morning chorus: a few tentative tweets at first, followed by a single territorial blackbird and then the rest, joining the full-throated refrain. The cruel world was still out there, she was still here, alone, and he was dead.
You can read about Liz’s inspiration for writing the novel:
The real-life events of one hundred years ago have inspired Liz Trenow, bestselling author of The Poppy Factory, to turn her storytelling talents once more to the impact of war on ordinary people.
‘Battlefield tours are commonplace today, but it was astonishing to me to discover that within months of the end of the war tour companies were already taking thousands of visitors to Flanders and The Somme,’ Liz says. These tours were controversial and there were furious arguments in the press about the way in which these ‘sacred places’, where so many died, were being ‘desecrated by commercial tourism’.
‘It is almost impossible to imagine the level of devastation: hundreds of towns and villages destroyed, roads churned up into mud, land littered with, trenches, hastily-erected graves, barbed wire and unexploded ordnance. Yet it is easy to sympathise with those who undertook such perilous pilgrimages, seeking the places where their loved ones died, or desperate for news of those who had disappeared in the chaos of war.’
The bodies of one in four casualties were never recovered and this tragedy is close to home for Liz. The novel is dedicated to her husband’s uncle Lt Geoffrey Trenow MC, who was killed at Passchendaele, and never found. He is commemorated at the Menin Gate.
In Love and War tells the story of three women who undertake this pilgrimage, each of them from different countries and backgrounds, with different perspectives of the war. All three bear their own burdens of sorrow and guilt, and their searches seem almost impossibly daunting. While initially regarding each other with suspicion what they eventually discover, together, is greater than any of them could have imagined.
‘I wanted this to be a story of reconciliation,’ says Liz, whose novel quotes a poem on the subject by the most famous of WW1 poets, Siegfried Sassoon. ‘Although as I wrote the final chapter it was depressing to realise that the world would face a further terrible war just a couple of decades later.’
| About the Author |
Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. In Love and War is her fifth novel. The Forgotten Seamstress reached the top twenty in the New York Times best seller list and The Last Telegram nominated for a national award. Her books have been translated into a number of languages.
She lives in Colchester in Essex with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters and two grandchildren.
*** GIVEAWAY ***
I have one paperback copy to give away to a UK entrant. Entry is by Rafflecopter below, please do ensure you complete the required fields correctly otherwise your entry won’t be registered. At the end of the giveaway, I will contact the winner for their address so that I can post the book to them. If no response is received within 72 hours, then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Thank you for your interest – and good luck!