I am delighted to be the next stop on the blog tour for author, Annabelle Thorpes new novel, The People we Were Before. For my stop I have a wonderful guest post by Annabelle, Enjoy!
If war is madness, how can love survive?
Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.
The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.
War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.
There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.
Five Books that Made me
Travel is a huge part of my life; I’ve been a travel writer for nearly twenty years and when I look back at the books that inspired me the most, they’ve always been set overseas. As a girl, I devoured the Chalet School books – classic (rather posh) school stories set in Switzerland, moving on to American authors as part of my degree. My favourite novels are those that take me somewhere as well as telling me a story, that give me real insight into a different country, culture and way of life. These five books have all played a role in the sort of writer I’ve become – or hope to become in the future.
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
A cliche, but this made a huge impression on me when I read it in my teens. Fitzgerald creates image after image after image; from the green light that flashes at the end of Daisy’s dock, to the moment when he fills the air with dozens of beautifully-hued shirts, piling them on the bed in front of her. Gatsby introduced me to the concept of the unreliable narrator and it’s such a clever, multi-layered book. But most of all it creates a world; a vivid, brittle world where money has replaced morality. A one-off.
The Famished Road by Ben Okri
I read this in my early twenties and remember being almost overwhelmed by the density of Ben Okri’s prose; every paragraph packed with images and deft description that created a unique, almost hallucinogenic world. I’d never been to Africa and it opened up a whole new world to me, alongside introducing me to ‘magic realism’. Okri’s tale of Azaro, a young spirit child, married the realities of life in an anonymous African city with a mystical, spiritual realm. Inspired by Okri I tried to introduce magic realism into the first novel I wrote. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work!
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
This amazing tale of 58 hostages, kept for months in a South American embassy, was a book that made me understand that a story set against a dramatic, threatening backdrop can still be a gentle tale of love and beauty. Again there’s a touch of magic realism, but for me it was more about the multi-person viewpoint that Patchett employs so effortlessly; seeing the situation from so many different perspectives made it a really deep, satisfying read.
Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This was a tough read, but again I found it fascinating as much for the insight into a period of history I knew nothing about – the Biafran War – as for the story itself. Adiche manages to make the savagery of the conflict brutally real, without it detracting from the narrative. I couldn’t stop reading it, although it made me flinch at times.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This is the book I wish I had written. Quite how Khaled Hosseini manages to write about such heart-breaking events, and yet make them beautiful and lyrical is a mystery to me. I’ve travelled a lot in the Middle East and he creates the atmosphere, traditions and culture so vividly I always feel like I’m back there when I read his books. This novel is a masterclass in being the sort of writer I aspire to be.
The People We Were is out now and available to purchase from Amazon.