Castles in the Air by Alison Ripley Cubitt


I’m delighted to be bringing an extract from Alison Ripley Cubitt and Molly Cubitt’s lovely family memoir of love and loss, ‘Castles in the Air‘ which was published in ebook on 25th November 2015. It is available to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

The Story:

An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother’s secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same.

After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly’s relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding?

Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison. From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage… to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her.

The writer in Alison can’t stop until she reveals the story of Molly’s past. But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly’s seemingly ordinary life?

As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother’s story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future?

Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, this is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams. We learn not only about Molly, but about mothers and daughters, secrets and love. A story for readers struggling to come to terms with the trauma of losing loved ones.

Read an extract from Alison’s moving story here:

In December 1941, just as Molly was sitting School Certificate, the schoolgirls heard some ominous news on the radio:

We were all greatly encouraged when we heard of the arrival of the mighty battleship, Prince of Wales and cruiser Repulse and all thought they would soon ‘sort out’ the Japanese. Then we heard on the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbour on December 2nd, 1941, thus drawing the Americans into the conflict – to be followed by air-raids on Singapore. Most of the children not taking School Certificate had been sent back to their homes. 

December 2 was, in fact, the date that Prince of Wales and Repulse arrived at the Singapore Naval Base with great fanfare. The attack on Pearl Harbour took place on 7 December, 8 December in Malaya, at the same time as the first Japanese bombing raid on Singapore. It was 4am in Singapore when Don and Ciss were woken by the air raid sirens. Their worst fears had come to pass. Their darling Molly was hundreds of miles away. All they could do was pray she would get home safely, but as a former Royal Marine, Don would have known only too well what perfect cover a remote jungle region could provide for an advancing Japanese land invasion.

 There were four of us Seventh Formers left – two girls whose families were in the diplomatic service in Bangkok (they spent the whole of the war years in the Cameron Highlands and I think their parents went to a Japanese POW camp). One girl [Marjorie] and I, both from Singapore and scheduled to take one more examination, were left. Neither of us realised the seriousness of what was happening. The Japanese were advancing rapidly down the Malay Peninsula, thus cutting off the Cameron Highlands and another hill-station.

Marjorie and I travelled down ‘The Hill’ for the last time together, then boarded the train at Tapah [for] Kuala Lumpur.

I made that same trip fifty years later in a modern car with power steering. It took over an hour and a half to negotiate the hairpin bends on that treacherous road. In 1941 it was little more than a dirt track.

We were to board the Night Mail Train from KL to Singapore where our parents would be waiting for us. We had dinner with one of our friends in KL and their cook-boy and driver took us to KL station. Suddenly the air-raid sirens sounded – the cookie hurriedly took us to the subway under the station. 

We were two rather frightened schoolgirls in our grey and blue school uniforms and hats, and suddenly we found our ourselves in a crowded subway, crammed with soldiers from all sorts of different regiments on the way up the Peninsula to fight the Japanese. The soldiers comforted us with sweets and cigarettes (we didn’t smoke) and made jokes. It was a relief to hear the ‘All-Clear’ sounding, but I shall always remember those brave men, and wonder to this day how many survived.

It was an eleven to twelve hour journey from KL to Singapore and I doubt if the two girls got much sleep that night.

We boarded the train again and arrived in Singapore where our anxious parents were awaiting us at the station. The war had come to our doorstep at last.


Follow Alison on Twitter on Facebook and at Lambert Nagle Books



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s