It’s wonderful to have fellow author and editor Sue Barnard on my blog today. Sue is a very talented writer with five novels to her name. Here she is introducing her sixth book:
Hello Alice, and thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today to talk about how Finding Nina came into being.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but Nina’s story really began several years ago, when I was writing my second novel, Nice Girls Don’t, which is set in 1982. In one key scene in that book, mention was made of something which had occurred almost forty years earlier: the secret birth, during World War Two, of a baby girl who was given up for adoption. Only afterwards did I realise that this had left open the possibility of another story: what could have happened to that wartime baby?
For a long time the idea remained just an idea, but the eventual result was Finding Nina, which covers the years from 1943 to 2004, and is part-prequel, part-sequel to Nice Girls Don’t. Nina was born in mid-November 1943, when World War Two was still at its height, and was named Nina after the nurse who delivered her. Nina’s mother Alice was seventeen and unmarried, and although the war had changed many things, the prevailing post-Victorian attitude to illegitimacy was not one of them. So one month later, just before Christmas 1943, Nina was handed over to a childless couple who formally adopted her and changed her name to Stella.
In the following extract, Nina’s adoptive mother Joan describes what happened on the day they received their new baby daughter:
Bristol, 14th December 1943
Today we went to collect the baby. Fred borrowed a car from someone at work, and we drove to the adoption offices in Bath. First of all, we had to sort out all the paperwork. I’d no idea there would be so much of it. There was even a medical report, which Fred had to sign to confirm that we’d seen it. As far as I can tell there are no serious medical problems, which is a big relief – but then, would they have given us a child who wasn’t completely healthy? I’ve never thought about that before.
When all that was done, the social worker took us into another room. Then she told us that the baby’s mother wanted to hand her over to us herself. Apparently this isn’t normally allowed, but she’d insisted. As we waited, I found myself wondering what she’d be like.
When she appeared, I was quite shocked. She wasn’t at all how I’d imagined. They hadn’t told us anything about her except that she was unmarried, and I’d pictured a fast-looking piece with peroxide blonde hair and far too much make-up. But she was small and slight, with dark hair and a very pale complexion. No make-up at all, as far as I could tell – not even a trace of lipstick. She looked quite young – no more than about seventeen, I would guess – and, strange as it might sound, almost innocent.
All she said was, “I can’t keep her because I can’t marry her father. Please look after her.”
I promised her that we would. Then she started crying, and the social worker led her away.
Poor girl – my heart went out to her. For the first time since we got the letter, I realised that our happiness was built on someone else’s heartache.
The next sixty-one years took Stella on a fascinating journey of discovery. What did she find at the end of it?
FINDING NINA is already available for pre-order. The book is officially released on 3 June 2019, when there will be an online launch party on Facebook, with guests, competitions and giveaways. To add yourself to the guest list, click here then select “Going”. See you there!
MORE ABOUT FINDING NINA:
1943: A broken-hearted teenager gives birth in secret. Her soldier sweetheart has disappeared, and she reluctantly gives up her daughter for adoption.
1960: A girl discovers a dark family secret, but it is swiftly brushed back under the carpet. Conventions must be adhered to.
1982: A young woman learns of the existence of a secret cousin. She yearns to find her long-lost relative, but is held back by legal constraints. Life goes on.
2004: Everything changes…
MORE ABOUT SUE:
Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet who was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad. She now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.
Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.
Sue’s own family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Finding Nina, which is her sixth novel, is not that book.
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