on February 4 2018
Genres: Mystery, Fiction
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Harriet has begun to despair of her life.
With a failed relationship behind her, a business on the rocks and a flat that’s falling apart around her ears, she could really use some luck.
Elena Banbury, née Guseva, an elderly but imposing Russian woman who is Harriet’s neighbour and landlady, frequently entertains the punters at Harriet’s jewellery stall with tales of the palaces of St. Petersburg and the treasures of Fabergé. But Harriet sometimes feels, guiltily, that she could do without the endless errands that seem to fall to her as Elena’s friend.
Then, unexpectedly, when Elena dies, she leaves all her worldly goods to a grateful Harriet. In time, however, it becomes clear that others are shocked by Harriet’s good luck, too. Shocked... and very, very unhappy.
Challenged in court by Elena’s family who live in Berlin, Harriet is forced to give up her inheritance and long-dreamed-of plans for a new business, and start her life again. But with her reputation in tatters and the memory of Elena tainted, Harriet knows a great injustice has been done.
Against the advice of her friends, family and lawyers, Harriet sets off on her own, very singular journey to Berlin.
In the weeks that follow she meets rich and poor, the glamorous and the criminal, the honest and the secretive, and begins to see that perhaps she has something to learn from them all. Something to learn about herself, and something to learn about her priorities.
She knows she has to fight for justice. But, when she meets the scholarly, perceptive Neil, who generously tries to help Harriet in her mission, but who is struggling with a complicated marriage, she must also decide if she’ll fight for love, too.
A Single Journey is a compelling and lively story, combining colourful characters with a page-turning plot and romantic highs and lows.
So today I am delighted to share with you a guest post from Frankie about the why Berlin is used in the novel. Enjoy!
It’s not where I got the idea for A Single Journey, but a visit to Berlin shifted the focus of the plot considerably. That began when I read about a court case in England of a rich, feuding family who claimed the youngest sister had coerced their grandmother into leaving her the lot. Sounded like a plot, but there the idea stayed, me not quite knowing where to go with it, until a long while later I happened to be in Berlin visiting Peter, my husband. Being in the film industry, he tends to be on location a lot, and for all kinds of reasons the unexpectedness of that incredible city gave A Single Journey a prod.
One morning having coffee with an American friend in Hackesche Höfe, a charming series of linked courtyard cafes on Rosenthaler Strasse in Mitte (you should go if you’re ever there), filled with pretty shops and cafes, is where the book found a shape. While history had taught me about the horrors of the Nazi regime, women left to the mercy of a marauding Russian army, I knew very little about the way the Nazi’s had stopped the increasing freedom women had begun to enjoy before 1933. Education, professions, the arts, all stopped, and women were made to become, as Hitler saw it, housewives and nothing else. My friend who was visiting at the same time told me that in 1934, her great aunt had managed a dress shop not far from where we were sitting. But while she was the brains and had her money behind it, that hideous regime did not permit her to actually own it. A male relative had to sponsor her.
Luckily my friend had a photograph of another relative standing outside the little shop, so I had an idea of what it was like, but the entire area had been extensively bombed and all trace of the shop and the street is gone. But it’s where I decided that Valentina – Elena’s mother – had her business, sponsored by her friend Max, and where Elena grew up. Decades later, when in A Single Journey Harriet arrives in Berlin, Hackesche Höfe is where I fixed it for Harriet to have a drink with Neil Charlton, the scholarly professor on secondment to Humboldt University who helped her unravel why Elena’s relatives were so keen to get her stuff back.