It’s hard to express how thrilled I am to be part of the launch celebrations for Tracy Rees today whose second novel Florence Grace is published by Quercus tomorrow, 30th June 2016, and is available on Amazon and directly from Quercus.
I have been a huge Tracy Rees fan since I read her debut novel Amy Snow last year and you can read my review here. Having also loved Florence Grace (my review is here) I wanted to know what drew Tracy to the 19th Century and she has kindly provided a guest post below to explain.
Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone. But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth. Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.
The Appeal of the 19th Century
A Guest Post by Tracy Rees
When I was little I used to love visiting castles (and pretending I was a princess!). I was entranced by the jagged stone outlines rising out of flower-strewn hills, the same old stones that had been there hundreds of years! Places like that, pockets of the past, are magical, inspiring. What is it about the past that entices and romances us? A sense of escape from our own oh-so-familiar lives? A sense of kinship with folk long-gone? Comfort, that despite the intense heartache of living and loss, the world keeps on turning, generation to generation? For me it is all of these.
As my first two books testify, I’m very drawn to the nineteenth century, probably due to a lifelong love of the old classics. My immersion in nineteenth century literature gave me a head start on my research; it’s amazing how much you absorb through reading without even trying. And I certainly never struggled with dialogue; the cadences and flourishes of those days are as familiar to me as modern speech. That said, when I began writing Amy Snow I did read a lot about the period. I wanted to understand the influences and preoccupations of the Victorians, their context and foibles. I used some excellent books and of course the internet. Then each book has specific demands. Transport is an important theme in Amy Snow, set as it is on the cusp of coach and rail travel. In Florence Grace, food was important, as Florence moves from poverty to the fine dining room of Helicon. For Amy Snow, I took a day trip to Bath, a town where she spends part of her journey. For Florence Grace, I returned to Bath, this time for a study session at the Bath Fashion Museum where I saw outerwear, undergarments and even crinoline hoops. I would love to visit that time if only for the bonnets!
As romantic as the nineteenth century can seem, the lot of women was incredibly difficult. Although we have wonderful, powerful literature written by women of that time, some of those authors, eg Charlotte Bronte and George Elliot, had to masquerade as men in order to be published! I love reading about how women then found ways to circumvent the social system. And I enjoy making it up even more! Amy and Aurelia in Amy Snow, Florence, Old Rilla and Lacey in Florence Grace, all live unconventional lives. Amy’s unusual upbringing in the cracks around mainstream society is ultimately what enables her to travel and to keep Aurelia’s secrets. In short, she has nothing to lose. I’m always fascinated by the times when we decide to step forward and take a risk, the times when we realise that what has more or less worked for us hitherto must now be challenged or changed. These are the moments that define character and that is as true today as it was 150 years ago.
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