The Secret Letters

The Secret Letters By Catherine Law



Published by Zaffre eBook, 6th October 2016, £4.99

Rose Pepper has kept her wartime past a secret for decades. Forty years ago, she fled communist Prague and left behind the love of her life.

Now in her sixties and with two daughters, Rose discovers a bundle of unopened letters sent to her by her lost love, hidden beneath her home.

Confronted with the possibility of facing up to her past, she decided it’s finally time to go back to where her story began and uncover the truth buried for so long in Prague...

From the author of Map of Stars comes a heartbreaking story of love, hope, secrets and lies. Perfect for fans of Kathryn Hughes and Leah Fleming

A truth buried over forty years. A love that lasted a lifetime.



About the author: 

Catherine Law was born in Harrow, Middlesex in 1965 and has been a journalist for twenty-two years, having trained first as a secretary at the BBC and then attending the London College of Printing. She now works on a glossy interiors magazine and lives in Buckinghamshire.



The story behind the story

By Catherine Law

 My first published novel A Season of Leaves (to be re-issued on 6 October 2016 as an e-book with the new title The Secret Letters) is based on the adventures of my great-auntie Ginge during and after the Second World War. I first heard her story when I was a child but it wasn’t until years later, after a decade of trying to get a novel published, that I decided to write a book inspired by it. But, as incredible as Ginge’s story is, I felt that I had to embroider the truth, add characters and change locations to create a better story arc. And I learnt many lessons about novel writing along the way.

Ginge was something of a legend in my family. During the war, while working as a Land Girl, she met and married Czech soldier Jan Chlebek, who was based nearby. After his enforced return to his homeland once peace was declared, she left on one of the first trains to travel across Europe to be reunited with him in Prague. However, as a captain in the Czech army and a supposed enemy of Socialism, Jan soon became a target for the new Communist government and it became imperative for them to return to England. Ginge packed a suitcase as if she was going on holiday so as not to arouse suspicion, taking her two young sons with her. Jan, meanwhile, escaped via a different route and threw himself off a moving train to make it to a refugee camp in Vienna. They were reunited in England months later.

For A Season of Leaves, my main character is Rose Pepper, (who, like my great-auntie, has lovely red hair) and I cheekily gave her the nickname ‘Ginge’. Rose, like Ginge before her, is a Land Girl, and she meets her own Czech soldier, Krystof, at a village hall dance. But, my Rose is already engaged to the completely fictitious and quite menacing Will Bowman, who, as the book’s villain builds up the tension and drama.

For my novel, I singled out critical events in the true story: Ginge’s journey to Prague across war-ravaged Europe, the hardships and tensions of post-war Czechoslovakia, and Jan hiding his gun in his coat pocket and calmly handing it over to Ginge while he is being arrested at Prague station. For me, these episodes were the most thrilling and most emotional to write.

The real Ginge and Jan met in the countryside near Northampton. However, as sentimental and fond as I feel about this Midlands town (it is where both my parents grew up), I relocated Rose and Krystof’s story to Cornwall - another place I know and love. The windswept cliffs, crashing waves and pretty fishing villages seemed to lend themselves far better to a sweeping romantic novel.

Once Ginge and Jan settled back in England, Jan anglicised his name to John Charlton but sadly died in 1965. Ginge (Gertrude Elizabeth Charlton nee Robinson) passed away in November 2007 at the age of 94, knowing that she and Jan were the inspiration behind my novel. The sentiment and the romance of A Season of Leaves/The Secret Letters belongs to the spirited and no-nonsense Ginge who, in the face of dreadful danger and uncertainty, followed her dream.

My Reviewpage2image16488

I just knew I was going to love this book as soon as I saw the cover and the blurb. It took me a little while to get into it but it was definitely worth it. The author takes us on a journey to wartime Cornwall and the attention to detail is incredible - the reader can easily imagine being a Land girl and enduring the horrors of war. Then, cleverly intertwined is Ruth's sojourn in Communist Prague, again written in meticulous detail to evoke the period. Finally, we are brought into the present as Ruth discovers letters that have been kept from her. I wondered how the story would come together and it was both slightly shocking and incredibly moving at the same time. I must admit that it brought a tear to my eye as I read the final paragraph. A wonderfully moving story that will say with you alongside some skilfully drawn characters.



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Latest comments

27.05 | 22:25

Another amazing review, dying to get my hands on this one xxx

27.05 | 20:42

probably the best new author I know....x x x x x x x

27.05 | 14:17

Great review, can't wait to read over the holiday

27.05 | 13:49

Wonderful review. Really looking forward to reading this.

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