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Opening in September 1939 at the outbreak of war, LAVENDER ROAD follows the entwined lives of the people who live in one narrow South London street through the first year of hostilities. Everyone suspects that the war will change their lives, perhaps for ever ... and mostly they are right.
'This novel, with its vivid portrayal of wartime life on the Home Front, creates a rich tapestry which depicts in all its fascinating detail the story of South London at war. Helen Carey's characters are so real that they live on with you beyond the page. Sparkling storytelling.'
When I came up with the idea of writing a novel set in the second world war, the publishers (Orion) originally wanted it set in the East End of London, but I had just moved to Clapham and I wanted to set the story there. I had already noticed the number of newish houses built into the old Victorian terraced streets - a sign of the relentless bombing, and I wanted to try to recreate the atmosphere of wartime Clapham as a kind of tribute to the 'ordinary' people who lived and died during through those eventful, traumatic years.
I wanted to show how local people were affected by events in the wider world, in particular how the old social structures changed and how women suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves facing new challenges and opportunities. But my overriding aim was to make the books engaging and fun to read and for that I needed lively, compelling characters.
One of the key characters in Lavender Road is Jen Carter who came to me after an interview with the wonderful actress and singer, Mary Morland, already well in her eighties, who had blazed a trail on the London variety stage all through the war and for many years afterwards too. I wanted Jen's fantasy of becoming an actress, as a means of escaping from the family she despises, to make a nice contrast with the desperate efforts of her careworn mother to keep food on the family table. In the end Joyce, Jen's mother, actually became one of my favourite characters, I so much enjoyed creating her tentative relationship with the 'rich' Mrs Rutherford in the large house overlooking the common, and best of all is when she finally gives the ghastly Stanley (her violent, feckless husband) his come-uppance - but you have to wait for Some Sunny Day for that ...
'I'm really cross with you, I read Lavender Road all night even though I had an important meeting this morning. I just couldn't stop. Feeling like death now. Talk about page turning power!'
'I live in New Zealand now but I spent my childhood in London and your story brought it all back. I'm sure I knew the people in your novel, they are so real, even the small characters like Mr Lorenz, I felt such nostalgia for it all. Thank you.'
'I don't normally like 'sagas', they are often so old fashioned and predictable, but Lavender Road really did it for me, it's lively, funny and I was completely involved and can't wait for the next one.'
LAVENDER ROAD is published in the UK by Headline Books - the cover image in other countries may vary.