A pleasure to be joining the blog tour today for a book I very much liked the look of – The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes, published by Urbane Publications in April/May 2016 and available for kindle and in paperback. My thanks to Kelly at #LoveBooksTours for the invitation to join the tour. See if you like the look of this one as much as I did…
Plucky and headstrong Mildred Holland revelled in the eight years she and her husband, the vicar William Holland, spent travelling 1840s Europe, finding inspiration in recording beautiful artistic treasures and collecting exotic artifacts. But William’s new posting in a tiny Suffolk village is a world apart and Mildred finds a life of tea and sympathy dull and stifling in comparison. When a longed-for baby does not arrive, she sinks into despondency and despair. What options exist for a clever, creative woman in such a cossetted environment?
A sudden chance encounter fires Mildred’s creative imagination and she embarks on a herculean task that demands courage and passion. Defying her loving but exasperated husband, and mistrustful locals who suspect her of supernatural powers, Mildred rediscovers her passion and lives again through her dreams of beauty. Inspired by the true story of the real Mildred Holland and the parish church of Huntingfield in Suffolk, the novel is unique, emotive and beautifully crafted, just like the history that inspired it.
Apologies, no review this time, as I just couldn’t make room in my reading list – but I’m delighted to welcome author Pamela Holmes as my guest, talking about “place”…
The place where a story is set allows for an exchange between characters, the era or time and the physical surroundings. My novel, The Huntingfield Paintress, takes place in the 19th century in a small Suffolk village where Mildred Holland, the main protagonist, is the vicar’s wife. Both the era and the village put restrictions on her life. When she says she wants to paint the ceiling of the parish church, it triggers triggered outrage from local nimbys. Villagers didn’t appreciate an outsider, someone from away, proposing to make changes to their church. `
Place sets the atmosphere of a novel. Today, Huntingfield is a wonderful village to visit with its quiet green and cosy pub off a winding country lane. But in the 1850s when the novel is set, it would have been very different; isolated, many of its inhabitants poorly paid as agricultural workers, little education, less health care.
Places evolve as the story progresses. When I was researching the book, I rented a small building in the village that once served as the laundry for the local manor. Living there for several weeks, I walked the fields and woods and lanes that Mildred knew, absorbing the atmosphere of the landscape. At first, I imagined she found the setting lonely, even frightening. But as she becomes clearer about what she must do, I could see the place becoming her companion and friend.
Many people visit the church and angel ceiling after reading The Huntingfield Paintress. When they write to me or in the visitors’ book, they speak about the power of place.
Thank you Pamela – and wishing you every success (and adding Suffolk to my UK destinations list…).
About the author
Pamela Holmes was born in Charleston, South Carolina. At the age of eight, she moved with her family to England. She studied nursing at London University as a mature student having spent three years living on a commune in Somerset where she developed a love of gardening, milking cows and laying hedges. She became a health journalist and on-screen reporter. She now works and volunteers to improve the lives of older people including those with dementia, and she sings in a rock band. The Huntingfield Paintress is her first novel. She won the Jane Austen Short Story Award in 2014 and her latest work was awarded Highly Recommended in the HISSAC competition 2015. Pamela is the mother of two boys and lives in London with her husband.