Authors Inside Track
“The Final Year”
If you felt the ground shake beneath your feet on Tuesday, September 14th, it was because a seismic event took place in Gloucestershire, England. It has taken almost exactly a year to complete the follow-up book to “None Stood Taller” but finally it’s published on Amazon. I knew exactly where the book was going historically. I had a specific period to cover, from D-Day up to VE-Day. The basic idea of where the story was going was also all there, but beyond that I had no idea where Lily might take me. As always, I let my character set the agenda, and I followed on behind.
I quickly realised that historically there was far more to recall than I realised. The scale of events in Normandy alone is breath-taking. The scope of the book instantly escalated, and that presented my first problem. As a writer of historical fiction, I am only too aware of the balance between fact and fiction. I set out to detail the period accurately, and I have remained true to that ambition, but with so much to cover, the life of my characters had to expand accordingly in order to maintain the fact/fiction balance. The result is a book of 164,000 words that anyone can enjoy, whether or not you are a history buff.
Am I pleased with the result? Only you, dear reader, can be the true arbiter of the finished book, but I certainly hope I have created something special between these two volumes. I have tried to achieve a genuine sense of the war, and not just as a historical narrative. I want you to experience it rather than just becoming acquainted with it. The reader’s experience of the war is essentially Lily’s experience, so my book succeeds or fails upon that connection. When I created Hut 3 and the boffins, it was, with hindsight, a very fortuitous idea. The historical detail from D-Day to VE-Day is considerable, and how to convey that in a novel would no doubt have been a problem without Hut 3. My characters give me ample opportunity to convey both historical detail and discussion; I hope that aspect of the book works as well as I think it does.
One aspect of the war that came across strongly during my research was the collective strength of the ordinary people. The spirit of the Blitz, and the spirit of the nation, are words we use today to describe the ‘can do’ attitude that was all pervasive during that period. Ordinary people achieved extraordinary things; we cannot compare current day values with the war years. It’s a tall order, but I have tried to create something of that spirit in these two books.
The patriotism and pride felt by the people of the time simply doesn’t have a comparator today. One of my favourite scenes in the book conveys that feeling of collective pride. It is the scene depicted on the front cover. Towards the end of Chapter 35, ‘Westminster Bridge’, it gets me every time! If it does not move you, dear reader, I would worry about you!
I will have to admit that my principal character has deeply affected me. I am both surprised and delighted at the way she has developed. Nearly all the scenes have taken me by surprise, and some left me deeply moved. Lily’s relationship with ‘Uncle George’ developed dramatically. I really didn’t see the cathartic moment coming, but when it did, I knew I had found something special. Lady Elizabeth also adds another dimension to the book; I hope you agree she works well. Dotty continues to step off the page. She seems to demand another book in her own right. I almost feel duty bound to oblige. Endings are always difficult, but the VE-Day chapter is certainly among my favourites. I guess it reflects how engrossed in the story I became. When Winston Churchill appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony with the Royal Family, I completely lost it!
So there we are, the two books are now complete. It has been a deeply moving experience for me as an author; I have learnt so much. Obviously I hope you enjoy ‘The Final Year’, but really I am hoping for a little more than that. If I can transport you back to those terrible days and make your heart soar, then that is what I would call success. Please give me your feedback, either directly or through the blog. Fantastic reviews are also very well received.
September 2021 Peter Turnham