Wednesday, 19 October 2011


It’s that time of year again.
Mist wraithing through the trees, harvest fields the colour of old gold, and leaves resonating every shade in the register of ochre. Autumn: glorious September, brisk October, segueing into the bittersweet melancholy of November. My favourite season. Always. From when I was a very young child, fortunate to live close to woods where we went berrying, tumbling about in piles of Autumn leaves. Now it has extra poignancy as I have my memories of visiting the World War One Battlefield sites one November while researching my book REMEMBRANCE.
It was just after November 11th. Remembrance Day parades had taken place and wreaths, still fresh, with bright ribbons, decorated the monuments and memorials. Travelling through France and Belgium: Albert, Amiens, Beaumont-Hamel, Langemark, Passchendaele, Peron, Thiepval, Ypres, - a litany of loss.
The deep sadness of the German graves at Langemark, sombrely guarded by rows of majestic trees.
Allied cemeteries everywhere. Stark in the landscape. An arresting uniformity of layout, yet empathetic individuality in the inscriptions and epigraphs, with a peaceful home-garden appearance of well tended flowers.
The ages on the tombstones of the dead on both sides heart-breakingly young.
And the book, which had been conceived as a single-main-character-plot-driven-tale of a young boy who lies about his age so that he can join the army becomes something more, much more. I felt I had a duty to those whose graves I stood by to centre the book in their experiences, physical and emotional.
REMEMBRANCE is the story of two families from vastly different backgrounds who live in the Borders. In one family, Francis, complex and sensitive, is older brother to Charlotte who is gently yet resolutely pulling away from her mother’s influence. In the other family it charts the awakening of Maggie’s self-awareness, the idealism of her twin brother John Malcolm, and of her young brother Alex, and the result of this idealism. The lives of these two families enfold with each other at home and abroad during World War One plus the shock of a battlefield meeting by young Alex with an equally young German soldier.
It’s a tribute to youth.
A Remembrance.
Photos / extracts copyright from Theresa Breslin Author Presentations: ‘Fact into Fiction’ and ‘A Sense of Place - Landscape and Location in Theresa Breslin novels’
Theresa Breslin’s latest historical novel PRISONER OF THE INQUISITION has won the teenage section (12+) of The Historical Association, Young Quills Award. It is also shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Award.


alberridge said...

A beautiful post, Theresa. Thank you for reminding us.

But I do wish our War Graves Commission didn't limit itself only to the two World Wars.I was unfortunate enough to be in the Crimea during Sebastopol's day of military remembrance, and was shocked and heartbroken by the neglected state of the British soldiers' graves. The Ukranian and Russian governments had remembered the Russian dead, the French remembered theirs, and the Turks remembered theirs - but the British graves were broken and unkempt, and there wasn't a single flower till I laid some myself.I'm trying to do something about it, of course, but our government doesn't want to know.

So it was healing to read your post today and to be reminded that people really do still care. Thank you for sharing it.

adele said...

Thank you for a wonderful post, Theresa.. And many congrats on your prize too. I loved Remebrance when I read it and feel a bit embarrassed that I've lived in Cambridge a whole year, come Saturday and not yet visited the American Cemetery. Will do that soon.

Linda B-A said...

Two or three years ago I well remember my daughter coming back from school and telling me the whole story of REMEMBRANCE, a book they had been reading in class, and telling me that I HAD to read it. It was one of those moments that reminds you of the power of historical fiction to capture young people's imagination. And many congratulations, too, on the Young Quills award!