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.
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.
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.
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.