An unusual blog tour today, as it does not concern one book, but a fantastic reissue of all of Sally Emerson’s novels from Quartet books.
So far, I’ve read Fire Child and Heat (review to follow), but am delighted to have more to come!
I’ll hand over to Sally, as she reveals more about her inspiration behind Broken Bodies which completes a gorgeous-looking set of novels…
Quartet’s brilliant reissues of my novels is now complete. They’re a set of six, all with dazzling covers, and include the bestselling ‘Fire Child’, ‘Separation’, ‘Heat’, ‘Second Sight’ and ‘Broken Bodies’ as well as ‘Listeners’, just out, with its disturbing evocation of a woman losing her control after her husband leaves her. But of all my novels, ‘Broken Bodies’ (Quartet £10) is the easiest for me to write about because there are public subjects involved, not least the story of Mary Elgin the wife of Elgin who removed some of the marble statues from the Parthenon in Athens.
I knew I had my novel when I was in the British Museum and standing in front of the magnificent Parthenon or Elgin marbles, my heart beating fast, and I noted a girl in a long green coat beside me and began to imagine a story around her. It was in a way a love story. A man, a historian like her, would come and stand beside her and make some knowledgeable remark but she would know so much more. Their rivalry would begin like this. All my novels begin with a central image.
A few days earlier in the British Library I had discovered a volume of the letters of Mary Elgin, the wife of Lord Elgin Though the girl in the green coat was my present-day heroine there was no doubt that the other heroine was going to be the charming, vivacious and observant Mary who travelled to Constantinople in 1799 with the unpleasant Elgin, taught the harem Scottish reels, introduced the smallpox vaccine to Turkey, but faced ruin and the loss of her beloved children when she fell in love with another man while trying to save her husband from imprisonment. So there are at least two love stories in ‘Broken Bodies’.
Anne Fitzgerald and the American Patrick Browning turn out both to be researching the subject of Mary Elgin, and they fight to lay their hands on her diaries which unlike her letters have never been published. There is a momentous secret in the diaries, a secret which means it isn’t just historians who want to find these diaries.
The story weaves Mary’s diaries, based on her letters, with the tale of the broken loves of Anne and Patrick. The Broken Bodies of the title are both the Elgin or Parthenon marbles and the tortured love affairs from which Anne and Patrick struggle.
Like some but not all of my six reissued novels (‘Fire Child’ throws the reader straight into the diaries of my malevolent but glorious young hero and heroine who seduce and destroy but love living) the story starts almost languidly but gathers pace until the readers realises this is a not just a blend of love story and evocation of Mary’s dramatic life in the 1800s but a thriller which takes the reader through the streets of London and to Athens.
The Times called it ‘a most remarkable and elegant novel’ while Publishing News wrote that it is ‘mysterious, compelling and strangely erotic…a clever mixture of thriller and passionate love story which holds the reader spellbound’. The Sunday Express reviewer observed that the ending was ‘unexpected and perfect’ and wished she could tell everyone what it was. My novels, as the Scotsman has pointed out, suggest ‘the fragility of our civilized state, the menace that lies just below the surface’. I like that sense of menace, and I like passion and I love a proper ending. For me, writing a novel is a rough voyage of discovery with Eldorado at the end. I discover my characters, my themes, as I write. The characters talk to me, as poor Mary Elgin talked to me, and I made her live again I hope, let her tell her side of the story. The ending vindicates her and her role in the removal of the marbles. But I very much hope you’ll not guess what it is until you reach the end. For after all, the end crowns all.
Huge thanks to Sally for sharing her thoughts on Broken Bodies which, along with Sally’s other novels, is available now in the Rediscovered Classics series from Quartet Books.
This post is part of a short blog tour to celebrate the release of Listeners and Broken Bodies so please do visit the blogs listed below for more: