When people hear that I’ve got a new novel coming out, they invariably ask what it’s going to be about.
I usually reply that, like the other books in my Lavender Road series, it is set in the Second World War and follows the lives of a number of people living in one London street through those turbulent years. I generally add that in wartime ordinary people often find themselves doing extraordinary things, things that people in peacetime would never dream of being required to do.
My new novel, The Other Side of the Street, which is being published on 6th April is indeed about all those things, but, like the previous Lavender Road novels, it also has its own individual themes. One of these is about someone trying to be a nicer person.
I suspect we all occasionally feel misunderstood by other people, even (or perhaps especially,) by our friends and family. (I think we can probably all agree that doggedly held presumptions and faulty suppositions are at the root of many a family rift.) It’s as though people have made up their minds about what we are like and don’t ever really accept that we might have the capacity to change.
I have a friend who I was at school with about a million years ago. Not long ago she glanced at my hands and said, ‘Goodness, when on earth did you stop biting your nails?’
I laughed and told her I had stopped biting my nails when I was about thirteen years old. But she just wouldn’t believe me, and I realised that she’d had me pigeonholed in her mind as a nail biter for eternity (even though we see each other constantly and have even been on holiday several times together!) It occurred to me that not biting my nails was probably not the only thing that had changed about me since we were in Lower Fourth together, but she probably hadn’t noticed that either!
Another friend is convinced I hate using public transport because I once made the mistake of saying I’d rather sit in a traffic jam than travel on the London Underground during rush hour.
‘How come you got here so early?’ She asks every time we meet in London. ‘But you hate the tube.’ She, on the other hand, is invariably late!
Or is she? Perhaps I just assume she’s going to be late, because she so often used to be.
Either way, I thought it would be interesting to write a novel about someone who, belatedly realising that her (somewhat selfish) behaviour in the past has alienated her friends, is now trying not only to change for the better, but to make people realise that she has changed.
It’s not easy for her of course, on either count. And the fact that she is trying to do it in wartime London, when her friends and family have much more important things to think about, (rationing, shortages, the blackout, husbands and lovers in the forces, D’Day, and the daily threat of V1 rockets,) makes it even more difficult!
About The Author
Helen Carey is the bestselling author of the Lavender Road series set in London during the second world war. Her previous novel, LONDON CALLING, has recently been shortlisted for the RoNA Awards, Historical Romance of the Year. Her new novel, The Other Side of The Street, will be published by Headline Books on 6 April 2017. Helen teaches creative writing at university level and is a Fellow of The Royal Literary Fund. She lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. You can learn more about her at Helen Carey Books