Of the Past and Portugal


Today I'm running a blog post that was first published on the website of the fabulous Linda Hill's website, which you can find here: https://lindasbookbag.com/

Thanks to Linda for her support of authors everywhere, including me!

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

So goes the quote from The Go-Between by L P Hartley, one of my all-time favourite books. And the idea of the past was one I wanted to explore in my debut novel.

Above all else, Garden of Stars is a love story – but the love is complicated by time. Time that’s passed, time that’s present and time that’s still to come. I find the whole idea of choices and decisions a fascinating one. What if I had gone to that university instead of this one? What if I had returned the phone call from that boy instead of pursuing the one who wasn’t interested? What if I had taken that job instead of this one? Life is full of turning points and it’s usually not until much, much later that the implications of the course one has followed become apparent. So it turns out for both Sarah and Inês, the lead characters in my book. Their lives have been defined by a series of actions taken, driven at the time by the belief that they were the right and moral choices, leaving regret to ferment and fester for years to come. Of course, that in itself wouldn’t be a very satisfying story. But, I hope, examining the fall-out from that regret, what they both do with it and where it takes them, is a tale that is worth telling.

Woven throughout the book is my deep love of Portugal, a country in which I have had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time when I undoubtedly should have been doing something more useful and productive. University holidays spent on the Algarve and in Lisbon, my TEFL course completed at International House in the capital, holidays since in the beautiful, pristine central region, the north and Porto. So many, many lovely places to explore and get to know. In my twenties, I twice hitchhiked home to England and could probably write a couple of books about those experiences as well. (Trade secret: the truckers’ food and accommodation on Brittany Ferries is superb.)

One of the most important elements of the Portuguese economy is cork and the serene, ethereal cork forests that cover much of the Alentejo region are not only crucial for the bark they produce but also for the flora and fauna they support – and cork is central to the storyline of Garden of Stars. Because cork is left to do its own thing for years in between harvesting cycles, nature can burgeon undisturbed. It’s forbidden to destroy cork oaks in Portugal and hopefully the continuing development of new uses for this amazing natural material will ensure it has a future. In the novel, the cork tree’s lifecycle of growth, harvesting and renewal stands as a metaphor for love, loss, hope and new beginnings. Time, even if it doesn’t heal, changes things and leads us out of the past and into a future that we can, and should, shape for ourselves. Our experiences define us; it’s how we work with them that counts.

I hope that anyone who reads Garden of Stars enjoys it and gets something from it. It would be absolutely amazing if, whatever your thoughts about it, you leave a review on Amazon. Reviews are the lifeblood of authors, especially newbies like me, so help us out if you can!

Thanks for reading and enjoy.

Rose x

You can follow Linda on Twitter: @Lindahill50Hill

And you can follow me: @RoseA_writer

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