As we began to write, a number of common themes began to emerge. See below for more information about the authors, and their stories.
Vanita Sharma – India/England – In The Elephant Amongst the Spires, Vanita Sharma tells a story of two journeys between India and the UK, set over ninety years apart. The first journey is that of her great-grandfather, who hopes for better things for his son in the UK. The second is that of the author herself, as she visits India to uncover the true story of what happened to her great-grandfather.
Barbara Selby – America/Enlgand – Barbara Selby, intrigued by family pictures, goes on a quest to discover more about the painter, reputed to have been a civil war artist with the Union Army. In To Breathe More Freely: The Journey to America she uncovers a tale of the emigration of an entire family to America in the nineteenth century, and traces whether their hopes were fulfilled in the new world.
Kristina Tzaneff – Bulgaria/America – In The Rose Horizon, Kristina Tzaneff traces the story of her father who, as a young man at the end of the Second World War, makes an arduous journey from Bulgaria, a small country in Eastern Europe, to America. Her father’s migration from Europe to the New World effects more than just his life as his intentions to receive a higher education and immediately return to Europe post-graduation are mired when the Iron Curtain falls and the Cold War begins.
Two pieces trace the mysterious history of objects and in doing so explore the legacy of figures long dead.
Nicola Stevens – Belgium/London – In The van Aken Brothers: The Business of Art, Nicola Stevens uncovers the forgotten history of the van Aken brothers, who travelled from Antwerp to London in 1720 in search of greater fame and fortune. Well-known minor artists, contemporaries of Thomas Hudson and William Hogarth, how did their story, even their names, become lost to history?
Susie Gutch – Egypt/South East England – in A Lock of Boney’s Hair traces the curious history of a relic of the Emperor Napoleon and its connections with her own family and Sir John Soane. The piece is part of a larger collection of stories connected with the life of Susie’s mother.
Two of our contributors tell fascinating tales of generations of strong women.
Diana Devlin – Lake District/Wales/London – In Marrying Mr Casson, Diana Devlin recounts the lives of three women in her family across three centuries, including Sybil Thordike, the famous twentieth-century actor. The action moves from the Lake District to Wales and London..
Patrizia Sorgiovanni – Southern Italy – The Lamp and the Little Lights is the story of women in southern Italy between the 1940s and the 1960s. The passionate rivalry between headstrong sisters leads to disastrous consequences for all involved.
Men of God, and of commerce…
In a largely secular age, it is sometimes forgotten that religion was the key guiding principle in the lives of many of our ancestors. Two of our contributors attempt to redress this imbalance.
Tracey Messenger – explores the religious history of her own family, beginning with her great-grandfather, saved from drunkenness to a more sober life devoted to the cause of Primitive Methodism in the early twentieth century. The Conversion of Tom Robinson imagines how this happened. But why did his zeal for the faith fade in the next generation? And what light did they find to live by?
Margaret McAlpine – West Yorkshire – In Fire at Gomersal Mills: A Terrible Calamity, Margaret tells of a calamity in 1913 that severed the fifth generation of her family from their roots in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Since 1750 their reputation and prosperity had been founded on manufacturing success and Christian evangelising. What could be salvaged – for them and their enterprises?
Out of Africa
Our anthology starts in India and ends in Africa.
Clare Blatchford – South Africa – In The Servants: A South African Cameo, Clare Blatchford tells a forgetten story: that of the relationship between householders and servants in the ‘Old South Africa’ of the apartheid era. She explores the changes and tensions in these old relationships as the ‘New South Africa’ comes into being. ‘Fortune’ is an extract from the book.
Clare Travers – Turkey/Kenya/Zaire – The re-discovery of a cache of ‘letters home’ prompted Clare Travers to revisit her early married life in Turkey, Kenya and Zaire. In Postcards from a Far Country, she describes life in remote areas when letters were the only link with the outside world.