Friday 18 August 2023

Inspiration and a Historic House Revisited by Sheena Wilkinson

I've had Covid recently and though officially 'better' I am distinctly tired physically and mentally, so this will be a short post.  

Last week I was in London -- not the most sensible post-Covid strategy in the world.  I was attending the Romantic Novelists' Association's annual conference (which included some historical novelists of course), and staying in Bow, East London. I blogged some years ago about the fascinating house where I stay, which belongs to a good friend, and as this was over five years ago, I'm suggesting you refresh your memory, as it's very relevant to this post:

This visit, my friend had arranged for her book group, plus a few other interested readers, to come and meet me to talk about my recent novel, Mrs Hart's Marriage Bureau, set in 1934. It was only as I posed outside the house for a photo, that it occurred to me how serendipitous the house was for the meeting. Though set in a marriage bureau, the novel is about the different sorts of fulfilment women sought for themselves.

One character uses her marriage to help her set up a factory based on co-operative principles, allowing people, women especially, to learn new skills and become more independent. It's absolutely in keeping with the initiative of Sylvia Pankhurst in Norman Grove a generation before. I've been visiting this house since the 1990s, always fascinated by its feminist history, and on Monday night, as I sat in the kitchen chatting about Mrs Hart to twenty-first century readers, I wondered if, without being conscious of it, the house, with its toy factory and nursery, had influenced my writing more than I had realised? 

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