This morning welcome author Jill Watson to my blog to discuss A Life in Books.
I have always enjoyed writing and dreamed of writing a book one day. However life got in the way – nursery training college, various jobs, marriage, children and divorce. In 1984 I suffered a serious back injury which put paid to my chosen career. That was when I decided to write seriously.
In 1990 I moved to the small Channel Island of Alderney to live with the new man in my life who was an islander. Life in the islands is very different to here in the UK and I found plenty to write about. On a small island it is easy to get published and I wrote nature, bird and local history articles for local publications. I was the Alderney Bird Recorder for ten years, wrote reports for Bird Watching Magazine and produced a small booklet ‘Birdwatching on Alderney’ which was very popular with tourists.
Sadly, my partner died in 2010 and I returned to England to be near my children and grandchildren. I attended creative writing classes at our local Adult Education Centre, discovered I enjoyed writing fiction and my dream of writing a book was finally realised.
I self-published ‘Gache and Gossip – A Year in the Life of a small Channel Island’ as a paperback in 2016, at the age of seventy four. The story was inspired by my extraordinary life on Alderney and is about a fictitious island, Ormerey, and the people who live there.
My mother was a teacher and our house was full of books – wonderful childrens books including the Little Grey Rabbit series by Alison Uttley, all the AA Milne books about Pooh, R L Stevenson’s ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ and, of course, Beatrix Potter. I loved them all! I guess my favourite children’s book is ‘The Island of Adventure’ by Enid Blyton. My mother read this to me while I was lying in a darkened room with a bad attack of measles. It was such an exciting story, I couldn’t wait for the next chapter. I still have my very batterd copy, the pages are dropping out it has been read so often! I was a huge Blyton fan.
I don’t remember any YA books in the 1950s. I went straight from children’s to adult books and worked my way through Neville Shute, Monica Dickens, Hammond Innes and Rumer Godden. Then a marvellous series appeared in paperback, the Whiteoaks of Jalna by Mazo de la Roche. There were sixteen books in all and were very popular at the time. I have read them several times.
‘Ivanhoe’ by Sir Walter Scott. We had a school trip to see the film starring a very young Elizabeth Taylor. It made the book come alive though we were all quick to point out how the film did not stick to the story in the book!
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ by Victor Hugo.
This is hard! I think I would have to say ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ by Jean M Auel. She has an amazing imagination that appealed to my love of earth history and the natural world. The whole series of six books is brilliant.
‘War and Peace’.
‘The Greengage Summer’ by Rumer Godden. Inspired by an event in her own life it is written in the first person by a thirteen year old girl and captures all those turbulent emotions of adolesence.
‘The Stranger’s Child’ by Alan Hollinghurst. So boring and the parts don’t fit together, no proper story. I gave up half way through.
‘The Complete Verse’ by Rudyard Kipling and a good reference book about the fauna and flora of the island. That would give me plenty to study (to fill the time) and tell me what was edible (to ensure my survival).
Gache – a traditional Guernsey fruit loaf.
In the summer of 1990 Lizzie Bayley moves to the tiny Channel Island of Ormerey to live with Raoul St Arnaud, a man she has met on only four previous occasions. Surprised by the hostility she encounters, Lizzie finds it hard to settle down but she is befriended by Raoul’s cousin, Francesca Saviano. Francesca has problems of her own. The man she loves, who dropped her without explanation forty years earlier, suddenly reappears in her life and wants to resume their relationship.
On a wild and beautiful island where land is precious, the community is divided by a controversial planning application to build a large hotel in the green belt. Against a background of public dissent and personal feuds, Lizzie and Francesca both struggle to find a way to happiness and fulfilment.
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