Wednesday 6 December 2017

The Saturday Letters by Jill Treseder . @Jill_Treseder @BrookCottagebks #BlogBlitz

When Henrietta finds herself excluded from seeing her grandchildren, she decides to write to them to explain their Afro-Caribbean origins in slavery.
She tells the story of her childhood in Bermuda, of marrying a British soldier, bringing up six children in Gibraltar and moving to England on her husband’s retirement from the army. Writing the letters reveals unexpected and challenging truths about herself and her family, which give her food for reflection.
Do her grandchildren ever receive the letters? And if so, how true a picture of their grandmother and family do they paint?

The Saturday Letters by Jill Treseder is published by sBooks on 21 November 2017.

As part of the Blog Blitz, organised by Brook Cottage Books, I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her, in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books - Jill Treseder 

Little Women by Louisa M Alcott
A childhood favourite set at the time of the American Civil War. The March girls became the sisters I didn’t have. I wanted to be feisty Jo, especially because she was a writer. I totally identified with the family, cried when Jo cut off her hair, was inconsolable when Beth died, fancied Laurie and wanted boys (like Jo in Jo’s Boys) which I eventually did have, as well as becoming a writer.

The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat
Another tale set at a time of civil war – this time in England with the Roundheads and Cavaliers. We lived near the New Forest so I could imagine the setting. It was a great crossover story from childhood adventuring to adult love with a good dose of history thrown in. I was captivated by life in the forest, by the characters of Patience and Pablo, the gypsy boy, and by the relationship between Patience and Edward – my first glimpse of romance maybe!

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
A ground-breaking study which came out in the early sixties when I was a student. The white author changes his skin colour in order to experience life as a black American. I found it profoundly shocking at a time when I not only knew nothing about discrimination and segregation, but had no inkling that my great-great-grandmother was a Barbadian slave. My mother wouldn’t discuss the book with me – small wonder as she was intent on keeping these origins a secret. It certainly influenced me forty-five years later – when I discovered this heritage – to write the novel The Hatmaker’s Secret and the novella The Saturday Letters, both of which are based on my family history.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
I read this as a ‘new housewife’ and it taught me the lesson “I can” in a practical way. When the vacuum cleaner went wrong, I remembered Pirsig showing his son how to mend his motorbike with a sardine can (or similar). Instead of calling for a maintenance man, I took the hoover apart and worked out how to fix it. It’s a lesson I still call to mind.

Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White
This novel took me into another kind of world. Not just Australia, but into an altered state of consciousness. Extraordinary and complex characters are powerfully drawn against a backdrop of sensuous descriptions which conjure a vivid sense of place. They come from diverse backgrounds, all outsiders in their different ways, but converge and share a spiritual vision and great compassion.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
A book of loss and pain, love and tenderness in a surreal world. Three orphaned children, one of them coming of age, a woman silenced by her abusive husband, incestuous love. I can still feel the cold harshness of Aunt Margaret’s jewelled silver collar which prevents her eating the feast she has prepared. My memory is of a dark tale with no happy ever after, but where love and beauty survive and triumph over cruelty.

Small Island by Andrea Levy
I wanted everyone to read this in order to understand the plight of West Indians who came to this country after the war (and indeed since). Wonderful characters – I was mesmerised by the writer’s skill in creating their very individual voices – great humour and skilful evocation of the clash of cultures and expectations both generally and within marriage. Hortense, Queenie and Gilbert are with me still.

Saturday by Ian McEwan
My novels tend to span decades or centuries and I was impressed that a novel could be so neatly and effectively contained within twenty-four hours and yet cover global issues, convincing relationships, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
Again a learning experience for my own writing. I was always afraid the reader would be bored if there wasn’t enough external action. But this novel is concerned with the process of grief and takes place almost entirely in the inner world of the bereaved Nora in the context of her immediate family. And it works. But then that’s Colm Toibin!

And I really want to give these at least a mention

Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole; 
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Tess of the d’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Middlemarch by George Eliot; 
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf; 
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; 
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry; 
The Road Home and The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

Jill Treseder was born in Hampshire and lived all her childhood in sight of the sea on the Solent and in Devon, Cornwall and West Wales. 

She now lives with her husband in Devon overlooking the River Dart.

After graduating from Bristol with a degree in German, Jill followed careers in social work, management development and social research, obtaining a PhD from the School of Management at the University of Bath along the way.

Since 2006 she has focused on writing fiction. 

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