I’m so disappointed I haven’t had time yet to read Rose Alexander’s debut Garden of Stars as so many bloggers are telling me how good it is. Garden of Stars was published in ebook by Carina on 25th July 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon and all other e-tailers.
Having loved Lisbon when I visited a couple of years ago, I invited Rose Alexander to explain how Garden of Stars has been inspired by Portugal.
Garden of Stars
The Alentejo, Portugal 1934
I am Inês Bretão and I am 18 years old. Now that I am finally an adult and soon to be married, I feel like my real life is about to begin. I have decided to document everything that happens to me, for my children and my grandchildren…
As Sarah Lacey reads the scrawled handwriting in her great-aunt’s journal on a trip to Portugal, she discovers a life filled with great passion, missed chances and lost loves – memories that echo Sarah’s own life. Because Sarah’s marriage is crumbling, her love for her husband ebbing away, and she fears the one man she truly loves was lost to her many years ago…
But hidden within the faded pages of the journal is a secret Inês has kept locked away her entire life, and one final message for her beloved niece – a chance for Sarah to change her life, if she is brave enough to take it.
Of the Past and Portugal
A Guest Post by Rose Alexander
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
So goes the quote from The Go-Between by L P Hartley, one of my all-time favourite books. And the idea of the past was one I wanted to explore in my debut novel.
Above all else, Garden of Stars is a love story – but the love is complicated by time. Time that’s passed, time that’s present and time that’s still to come. I find the whole idea of choices and decisions a fascinating one. What if I had gone to that university instead of this one? What if I had returned the phone call from that boy instead of pursuing the one who wasn’t interested? What if I had taken that job instead of this one? Life is full of turning points and it’s usually not until much, much later that the implications of the course one has followed become apparent. So it turns out for both Sarah and Inês, the lead characters in my book. Their lives have been defined by a series of actions taken, driven at the time by the belief that they were the right and moral choices, leaving regret to ferment and fester for years to come. Of course, that in itself wouldn’t be a very satisfying story. But, I hope, examining the fall-out from that regret, what they both do with it and where it takes them, is a tale that is worth telling.
Woven throughout the book is my deep love of Portugal, a country in which I have had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time when I undoubtedly should have been doing something more useful and productive. University holidays spent on the Algarve and in Lisbon, my TEFL course completed at International House in the capital, holidays since in the beautiful, pristine central region, the north and Porto. So many, many lovely places to explore and get to know. In my twenties, I twice hitchhiked home to England and could probably write a couple of books about those experiences as well. (Trade secret: the truckers’ food and accommodation on Brittany Ferries is superb.)
One of the most important elements of the Portuguese economy is cork and the serene, ethereal cork forests that cover much of the Alentejo region are not only crucial for the bark they produce but also for the flora and fauna they support – and cork is central to the storyline of Garden of Stars. Because cork is left to do its own thing for years in between harvesting cycles, nature can burgeon undisturbed. It’s forbidden to destroy cork oaks in Portugal and hopefully the continuing development of new uses for this amazing natural material will ensure it has a future. In the novel, the cork tree’s lifecycle of growth, harvesting and renewal stands as a metaphor for love, loss, hope and new beginnings. Time, even if it doesn’t heal, changes things and leads us out of the past and into a future that we can, and should, shape for ourselves. Our experiences define us; it’s how we work with them that counts.
I hope that anyone who reads Garden of Stars enjoys it and gets something from it. It would be absolutely amazing if, whatever your thoughts about it, you leave a review on Amazon. Reviews are the lifeblood of authors, especially newbies like me, so help us out if you can!
Thanks for reading and enjoy.
About Rose Alexander
Rose has had more careers than is probably strictly necessary, including TV producer / director making programmes for all the major broadcasters, freelance feature writer for publications including The Guardian and secondary school English teacher, not forgetting cocktail waitress, melon picker and interior designer.
Writing a novel is, however predictable the line seems, the realisation of Rose’s childhood dream and the result of finally finding ‘a voice’. The triumph is that the voice was heard above the racket created by her three children plus rescue cat (tabby white, since you ask). Rose likens the experience of penning Garden of Stars, a multi-layered love story, to another recent achievement of learning to ice-skate: progress is two-slides-forward-one-back; insecurity, self-doubt and despondence reign supreme; onlookers laugh, mock or even worse, smile indulgently…. But the finished manuscript, polished and pristine, is like the perfect pirouette performed on freshly raked ice. (Rose can’t do pirouettes yet, obviously, they just made the best simile.)
Rose is currently working on several new projects including a novel based on a relative’s true story of an epic journey as a ‘flüchtlinge’, fleeing the vengeance of the rampaging Red Army as Nazi Germany collapsed.