Delighted to join the blog tour today for East of India by Erica Brown, published by Canelo on 16th April and available on all major e-book platforms (kindle, Kobo, Google, iBooks). I love the look of this book – with its obvious comparisons with so many others I’ve enjoyed – and I do hope I’ll be able to catch up with it once my book pile diminishes a little.
India, 1940. When Nadine learns that the Indian woman she thought her nanny is, in fact, her mother, she rebels against her English father and he arranges for Nadine to be wed to an Australian merchant many years older. She is whisked off to his plantation in Malaya but as the Second World War rages throughout the East, Nadine is taken captive by the Japanese. She is held at a camp in Sumatra with other women and forced to provide sexual favours for the soldiers.
In the most unlikely circumstances, Nadine finds an ally and protector in a Japanese-American general, caught up in the war. The two bond over the conflicted identities and gradually fall in love. But can Nadine survive long enough to find happiness?
Don’t miss this emotional and powerful saga about a women’s determination to beat the odds, perfect for fans of Renita D’Silva, Dinah Jefferies and Julia Gregson.
I’m delighted to welcome Erica as my guest on Being Anne, with a wonderful piece on the background to her writing…
When I give talks about my books, I am frequently asked where I get my ideas. I’m tempted to say that I catch them with one of those electric bats meant to squat a mosquito, but that wouldn’t be true. To be quite honest, it’s a very difficult question to answer. The ideas are always there, floating around inside my head just waiting for me to notice them and put them into words.
It’s in the blood, might be a very good answer, the idea that telling a story is something I carry in my genes. On closer scrutiny, I think it very likely that I do carry a story telling gene. In my mind I see some long ago ancestor sitting around a log fire, pulling a story from the shadows, intense faces all staring at me expectantly as I begin to tell my tale.
That’s how stories were told in pre literate times, the story teller a much respected person who could keep everyone entertained during the long dark nights of winter.
My mother used to tell stories or, to be more accurate, she related events that had happened to her in her life. As she told her tales, we kids were transported back to her time, living the life she led with her five siblings at the beginning of the twentieth century.
She was born in 1910 in Bristol. Her mother was a housewife – as married women were back then. Only single or widowed women worked.
Her father had served with the army in what was then called Palestine. On leaving the army he drove one of the locally famous blue taxis that mostly plied their trade outside Temple Meads Station. The drivers wore a uniform complete with gaiters and a peaked cap.
My mother had five siblings, one of whom, Stanley, died before the age of four, not unusual back then before widespread vaccination and cramped housing conditions.
The house they rented had two bedrooms, a front room that was only used on special occasions, a living room and a kitchen. The bath was made of zinc and hung on the back wall of the house. The lavatory was in a small brick outhouse at the end of the garden.
She and her brother and sisters were the working class version of the Famous Five. They wandered everywhere, playing in fields and fishing for tadpoles in streams, attending a Baptist school during the week and Bible class on Sunday.
What fun they had and what scrapes they got into! There was the time at play in Clancy’s Farm when the bull had chased them across the field. That was when my mother fell into a cow pat. The time she caught the lace trim of her knickers on barbed wire as she climbed over a gate. The time at home when they’d been sent to bed after a supper of bread and dripping and the smell of their father’s evening meal drifted enticingly upwards. Naughty Harry had poured water down through a hole in the floorboards – straight onto the top of his father’s head; they all got six strokes of the cane on the backs of their legs for that.
Their mother spent all her time keeping house, and their father, when he wasn’t working, was to be found in the Red Cow or the Black Horse. She recounted a story of him arriving home drunk with the brim of his hat around his neck, the crown of the hat still sitting on his head. ‘Madam,’ he said to his wife, his hands flat together in prayer, ‘I’m collecting on behalf of the church…’
The story goes that my grandmother was furious, pulling him through the door and at the same time telling him not to be blasphemous.
‘We used to get sent up Harris’s to get some pinky fruit.’
For those of you born into more affluent times, pink fruit was bruised and battered and generally way past its sell by date – though they didn’t have little stickers telling you that back then.
Bread and dripping and bread and jam were the mainstay and the height of luxury were Clarks’ pies, full of bits of scrag end beef and the most delicious gravy ever. Nobody could afford chops or steaks and chicken was only tasted once a year. Offal like liver and kidneys were a big mainstay along with tripe, pigs’ trotters, pigs’ tails, tripe, breast of lamb and stuffed hearts. The most frequent dessert – if you were getting one at all – was a suet pudding the size of a cannonball, wrapped in a cotton cloth and boiled for hours.
‘I loved Mary Pickford,’ my mother exclaimed wistfully. ‘I wanted to be her or Pearl White in the silent movies. And Douglas Fairbanks Junior. He was handsome.’
I realise now that when she told me her tales she was reliving them all over again, the central character in a time long gone but not forgotten.
Her tales were vivid and lived long before I was born, but I like to think some particle of them lives on in my books, most of which take place in the times she lived in, a fitting memorial I hope.
About the author
Erica Brown is the pseudonym of best selling author Lizzie Lane. The books she writes under this name are of the exotic saga variety (the Strong Family Saga, comprised of Daughter of Destiny, The Sugar Merchant’s Wife and Return to Paradise), differing from the Lizzie Lane WW2 books she writes or the Honey Driver cosy crime series written as Jean G Goodhind. She lives in Bath and has one daughter and twin grandchildren one of whom is dead set on becoming a writer.