For Iris, each visit to her mother in St Mabon’s Cove, Cornwall has been the same – a serene escape from the city. But today, as she breaths in the salt air on the doorstep of her beloved childhood home, a heavy weight of anticipation settles over her. Iris knows she’s adopted, but any questions about where she came from have always been shut down by her parents, who can’t bear to revisit the past.
Now, Iris can’t stop thinking about what she’s read on the official paperwork: BABY GIRL, FRANCE, 1939 – the year war was declared with Nazi Germany. When Iris confronts her mother, she hits the same wall of pain and resistance as whenever she mentions the war. That is, until her mother tearfully hands her an old tin of letters, tucked neatly beside a delicate piece of ivory wool. Retreating to the loft, Iris steels herself to at last learn the truth, however painful it might be. But, as she peels back each layer of history before her, a sensation of dread grows inside her. The past is calling, and its secrets are more intricate and tangled than Iris could ever have imagined.
The year is 1939, and in Paris, France a young woman is about to commit a terrible betrayal…
A beautifully written and addictively compelling historical novel about the terrible choices ordinary people were forced to make in the horrors of World War Two. If you loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Alice Network and The Nightingale, you will devour this book.
My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invitation. The Last Train from Paris is published by Storm Publishing in ebook (also available with Kindle Unlimited), Audio and Paperback (23 October 2023). For my turn on the tour, I’m delighted to share a guest post from Juliet.
Writing about love in a time of crisis
by Juliet Greenwood
When I was writing The Last Train from Paris, I was worried that there wasn’t really a sweeping romance in the mix. There is love, of course. A marriage that goes very wrong, a marriage that goes very right, and the variety of relationships in between. But it isn’t exactly Casablanca, or Titanic (sorry).
The first draft of my books (well, the first to third or fourth or fifth, to be perfectly honest) are always a total mess. I usually know where I want to go, but actually getting there is the agony. I always get to a point where I feel I don’t know what I’m doing, how I ever managed to write a book ever, let alone be published, and why on earth did I start this story in the first place, and will my agent and publishers notice if I change my name and run for the hills? Then I remember you that in this day and age you can’t just vanish; social media will track you down, and that would be plain embarrassing. Plus, there were all those years (decades, in fact) when I battled with rejections and getting nowhere, to become published, and so I can’t possibly give up now.
At which point, I finally pull on my big girl pants and find a way through. With The Last Train from Paris this came from the sudden light bulb moment that (of course!) this story may not be about romance, but it is about love. Love between family members, love of mothers for children, love between friends, and, in the most desperate of times, between strangers, pulling together, overcoming war and the most terrible of evil, as the world falls apart. It may not be a love that conquers all, but it is a love that survives everything, and is the source of the characters’ own survival, both physically and emotionally. As Philip Larkin says, ‘What will survive of us is love’.
And so, I hope that The Last Train from Paris is about the power of love, as well as the all-too-often overlooked role of women in times of war and crisis, who pull together, keep the world turning, and work miracles to ensure those around them are kept as safe as possible, and that there will be a future, after all. This became particularly poignant when my characters as, like my mum’s friends and relatives, were fleeing from Paris, pushing a few belongings, desperately attempting to keep their children safe, under constant terror of enemy planes appearing, just as the war in Ukraine began.
I found the stories I’d heard in my childhood, and read in my research, were suddenly playing out in front of me on Twitter and the evening news. For a while I stopped, unable to carry on. How could I write a fiction in the face of such a terrible reality? But then it struck me that in the story I was telling I was honouring the experience of women and children and the civilians caught up in war, along with the ability of human beings, through resilience and the power of love, to survive the worst of times. And, in the end, that sometimes feels the only hope we have.
And so I hope you enjoy the story of The Last Train from Paris, and the women who battle to survive against the odds, to build a better future.
Juliet Greenwood is the author of seven historical novels, her latest being with Storm Publishing. She has long been inspired by the histories of the women in her family, and in particular with how strong-minded and independent women have overcome the limitations imposed on them by the constraints of their time, and also with the way generations of women hold families and communities together in times of crisis, including WW2.
After graduating in English from Lancaster University and Kings College, London, Juliet worked on a variety of jobs to support her ambition to be a full-time writer. These ranged from running a craft stall at Covent Garden to collecting oral histories of traditional villages before they are lost forever, and more recently as a freelance editor and proof-reader.
She finally achieved her dream of becoming a published author following a debilitating viral illness, with her first novel being a finalist for The People’s Book Prize and her first two novels reaching #4 and #5 in the UK Kindle store.
Juliet now lives in a traditional quarryman’s cottage in Snowdonia, North Wales, set between the mountains and the sea, with an overgrown garden (good for insects!) and a surprisingly successful grapevine. She can be found dog walking in all weathers, camera to hand.
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