I’m delighted to welcome Clare Harvey, author of The English Agent, to Linda’s Book Bag today to celebrate the paperback edition. The English Agent is published by Simon and Schuster and is available for purchase here.
I love both travel and historical fiction so to have a guest post from Clare about how her travels bring her into contact with all manner of people is a real treat.
The English Agent
How far will two women go to survive a war?
Having suffered a traumatic experience in the Blitz, Edie feels utterly disillusioned with life in wartime London. The chance to work with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) helping the resistance in Paris offers a fresh start. Codenamed ‘Yvette’, she’s parachuted into France and met by the two other members of her SOE cell. Who can she trust?
Back in London, Vera desperately needs to be made a UK citizen to erase the secrets of her past. Working at the foreign office in charge of agents presents an opportunity for blackmail. But when she loses contact with one agent in the field, codenamed Yvette, her loyalties are torn.
A Guest Post by Clare Harvey
My husband refers to me as ‘the nutter magnet’ whenever we travel anywhere. Why? Because I’m the one who always gets embroiled in conversations with strangers, the one who chats in the queue to the ladies’ loos or at the bus stop. I have even been known to make eye contact and strike up a bit of banter on the tube (I know, shocking, right?).
I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it’s a childhood spent moving around (I went to five different primary schools), my misspent youth pulling pints in pubs, my journalism training, or seventeen years as an army wife, being posted to a new home every two years. For whatever reason, I’ve got into the habit of chatting to apparent strangers, who chat back. And then I listen to their stories:
There was the man with the red-rimmed eyes on the plane from Zurich who told me about how his wife didn’t understand his obsession with walking with wolves, and the impact it was having on their relationship. There was the Filipino nurse in the neonatal unit in Bonn who told me that her husband left her because she couldn’t have children, and how every day on the ward with the mums and new-borns was a reminder of her failed marriage. There was the man with the moustache in the waiting room at Derby who was just returning from the first weekend he’d spent with his son in three years – when his marriage broke up his wife had tried to prevent him from seeing his boy and it had taken years worth of legal wrangling to get access. And there was the glamorous woman on the train to Bristol who told me that she’d been packing to leave her abusive and adulterous husband to be reunited with her girlhood sweetheart, when her husband suffered a massive stroke, and she found she couldn’t leave, kissing her dreams goodbye to a combination of guilt and the drudgery of nursing him.
And these are just the few I can remember.
I have never used any of these stories in my fiction, but I value every second of their telling, listening to how voices change as details are recounted, watching expressions flit across faces, shoulders hunch, or eyes well with unshed tears. The tone of voice, body language and sense of internal conflict are all a gift to me as a writer. And I feel privileged that to be given such insights into other people’s lives.
So, whatever my husband says, I’m proud to be a ‘nutter magnet’, even if it had caused the odd awkward moment on the tube…
About Clare Harvey
Clare Harvey was born in Barnstaple in North Devon, and lived there until just after her seventh birthday, when the family uprooted and moved to Mauritius for two years. After living overseas, the family moved back to Englefield Green, in Surrey, and then later back to Devon, where she went to secondary school.
Clare studied Law at the University of Leicester, but chose not to follow a legal path, deciding instead to do voluntary work in Tanzania and hitch-hike from Zanzibar to Cape Town, where she stayed for a year. After her African adventure, she worked for an overseas charity, picked up a journalism qualification, and fell in love with a soldier. Much to her parents’ dismay, a safe career as a solicitor never looked likely!
Clare has had an itinerant adulthood, working as a freelance journalist and English tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland, as well as various parts of England, as the trailing spouse of a serving soldier.
Clare’s debut novel The Gunner Girl (Simon & Schuster, October 2015) won the Exeter Novel Prize in 2015 and the 2016 Joan Hessayon Award for romantic fiction.
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