It’s eight years since I started writing ‘Lily’s War’. It was a reaction to a couple of things-firstly, to try to rediscover my mum after she died at the age of 90. Anyone with an elderly relative will understand that in the last few years of life, you can lose sight of the younger person who used to put Germolene on grazed knees, reassurance on bruised hearts and a cautionary arm on flawed decisions. I also wanted to justify my family’s belief in me when they paid for me to go on an Arvon Foundation course.
What I didn’t expect is that so many of you were going to join me on that journey.
It’s easy to brush away someone’s comments when they say they are grateful to their audience or to fans. I’m not just grateful, I’m completely blown away and utterly taken by surprise. I thought it was my journey and a book that might, just might, appeal to a few of you, I never, for a moment, thought it would resonate so deeply with so many of you.
Take the 26 year old who wrote to me to say she had read ‘Lily’s War’ during London’s Lockdown (COVID 19). She told me: “Your words have moved me and I am so blessed to have found the book when I did, your writing has made me feel a new way of life especially during lockdown.
Then there was the woman who wrote to me to say she had never written to an author before but that : “The sad truth is that I will never really know about my mother’s war. But your research, storytelling and writing have given me some insight into how it may have been, at least in part. I still miss my mother every single day, but while reading your novel I felt so close to her. Thank you so much for enabling me be with both her (and my dad) again.
That’s it … just a simple thank you, sent very much from the heart.”
And I’ve had so many comments like this one: “Many memories of talking to my parents about their wartime experiences came flooding back. I only wish I had been able to read your book before they died and then I would have paid much more attention and asked many more questions.” And I think that sums it up, really. The war was boring to our post-war generation and we only now realise what our parents had been through. I think this pandemic has made us all, including younger people like that 26 year old, think a bit deeper about how precious older people are.
I would love to think that my book is helping all of us, myself included, to take a moment to stop and appreciate that.