I am delighted to welcome author Jan Baynham today to talk about her latest release. I was particularly interested in this story since it is partly set in France - in beautiful Normandy, to be more precise... Over to you, Jan.
Thank you for having me on your blog, Marie, to talk about my third novel, Her Nanny’s Secret, published this week by Ruby Fiction. As with all my novels, it is set in both beautiful rural mid-Wales where I grew up and in a foreign location. In this case, the contrasting setting is Normandy in Northern France, first in 1943 when the area was occupied by the Nazis and then two decades later when my main character travels abroad for the first time. Although the town of Ville de Roi and the surrounding villages of Collinac and Sainte Marie-Hélène are fictional, I’ve based them on the area around southern Normandy I know well.France was always our holiday destination of choice when our children were small. Over the years, we have visited and hosted many children and adults from our twin French town, too, and as I was writing, it brought back many happy memories.
The story opens in 1943; we meet Odile who lives with her parents helping them on the family farm to eke out a living during the German occupation. She leads a double life as an active member of the French Résistance, taking risks and showing bravery in the movement for which her elder brother has already lost his life. The farmhouse where they live used to be an old mill, hence its name Le Vieux Moulin.
In 1963, Annie travels to the same area and eventually the same old mill and I tried to imagine what it was like to visit France for the first time. Here are a few experiences that were new for Annie. She was amazed by the abundance of flowers in every town and the fact that even the smallest village that seemed to have a square and a town hall.Pretty window boxes adorned the upstairs windows and scarlet summer geraniums and tumbling blue lobelia gave a blaze of colour. They hadn’t walked far when they reached a large, paved area in front of an ornate building. Red brick formed a pattern around the gable and rendered façade, and the word MAIRIE was spelled out using the same brick.
In the square of Ville de Roi, she was fascinated to watch groups of people playing a game she hadn’t seen before, the popular French pastime of pétanque, and observed how animated they became as the game progressed.The one thing Annie loved most was sitting outside the numerous cafes and bistros with the sun on her face and sampling foods that were new to her, amazed at the range of breads, pastries and gateaux on offer.
Studying the menu. Annie had never seen such a choice and couldn’t decide from the images between a savoury galette filled with ham and cheese, topped with a fried egg, or, to satisfy her sweet tooth, a crêpe, oozing with cooked local apples and whipped cream. Pancakes were only ever eaten on Shrove Tuesday at home and then always with sugar and lemon juice.
Perhaps her favourite outing was to the famous St Mont Michel lying out in the bay opposite Ville de Roi and linked to the mainland by a causeway. She enjoyed walking through the narrow streets and winding her way up to the Gothic abbey perched on top.
The view from the very top was spectacular and worth the effort. They wandered around the arched cloisters that edged formal gardens and then found a bench for Annie to read the guidebook she’d bought about the abbey.
Annie would never forget her first visit to France, the landscape she travelled through, the pretty villages, the language she heard spoken and the warmth of the people she met. When she arrived, she could never have dreamt that the secret she’d held for over twenty years would be resolved in the way it did. But I can’t give away any spoilers, can I?
Thank you so much for this, Jan. Your new story sounds wonderful. I have always wanted to visit beautiful Mont Saint Michel and I hope I can one day...
Buying Links for Her Nanny’s Secret:
Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit
Blog: Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com