Category Archives: Reading a novel

Islands of Inspiration (5) Alderney ~ for me the Ultimate Island

Looking out over Braye Beach

Alderney was the island which gave me the original inspiration to write my debut novel Riduna, first published by Pegasus in 2009, then Eventispress in 2012 when its sequel Ancasta was published. How time flies!

I have not been back for eight years due to moving to Fife and increased family commitments. It seemed an awful long way from here. How would we get there? How would a small island community have survived Covid? Would it be in decline or could it have ridden the storms?

What I did know was that I had a burning desire to return; a feeling you should never ignore.

Alderney is an island I have always held dear to my heart; the location of many happy memories of holidays as a teenager; the origins of the Jackson branch of my family and the place of my Great Grandmother Harriet’s birth.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

I am always excited to return. The two plane journeys, first from Edinburgh to Southampton and then on to Alderney seemed a bit daunting at first post Covid, but we took it in our stride and I was filled with an overwhelming joy; a sense of Deja vu of journeys gone by. I was smiling as we were called through at Southampton airport.

Each moment was precious; the first sight of Alderney from the plane; coming into land and into the little airport building, which hadn’t changed a bit, then the taxi drive to our hotel. Oh so very familiar and beautiful.

On our first day we ambled about, first visiting the town St Anne, which appeared to be thriving, relative to some English and Scottish small towns. Then it was down to the harbour and the breakwater and on to Braye Beach. The weather was warm and there was a tiny breeze, which was perfect. The following day we walked to the beautiful bays of Saye and Arch and then got a light lunch in The Old Barn at Longy.

Spiritually I felt so in tune with Alderney and know it is my spiritual home. I always feel a closeness with my Great grandmother there, but I was also aware this time of being extra-specially close to my Mum and Dad.

The sunshine, warmth, exercise and fresh air filled us with life, and my mind cleared of some of the fog of the past couple of years. I could feel a healing power and a setting free. Marvelous!

How I was inspired by the island of Alderney

Alderney, as I said at the beginning, was my initial inspiration to write, as was the story of my Great Grandmother. Walking where she walked and seeing houses and streets much as she would have seen them, with the cobbles and Georgian buildings as well as the tiny stone cottages down at Newtown, I became aware of her footsteps beside me and a whisper of encouragement in my ear.

Alderney Mid 19th Century

This was added to by a visit to Alderney Museum where Guilia, who is in charge of research, spent a couple of hours with me, talking through my projects. She was interested in what I knew of my family history and attempted to untangle fact from imagination, as my talk of my novels wove in and out of Harriet’s true story. (In a nutshell she lost here parents and was sent to Guernsey) Armed with several books to bring home I was tasked with sending her our family tree as we know it, with documental proof wherever possible.

I felt quite light headed as we headed back down to our hotel.

I was not so sad when we took off the next day because I knew I would return soon.

I’ve been inspired to delve into my parent’s family history files, untouched since they passed away.

I’m also inspired to work on Dad’s novella, a prequel to Riduna, in the knowledge that there are experts at hand who will take my work seriously and read the manuscript with a critical eye on its authenticity.

I had reached out and I feel that folks are reaching back over the sea to meet me half way.

It is a wonderful feeling!

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Filed under Alderney, Author Diana Jackson, Channel Islands, Family History, Inspiration, Reading a novel, Research, Riduna

Diana’s Autumn Book Reviews (5) The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea

Why did I chose this book?

It is a novel set on another familiar island; an evocative story based on truth. We visited The Orkneys several years ago and loved them, especially the uncovered layers of history everywhere you turn, from Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes through to World War 2. There is none more moving than the Italian Chapel built from an old Nissen hut and beautifully painted by Italian Prisoners of War, as if it was a famous chapel in the heart of Rome. I looked forward to reading The Metal Heart, not only to whisk me back to The Orkneys, but to also to bring these Italians from WW2 alive in my head!

Did I feel empathy for any particular character?

I could not help but be drawn both the Dorothy and Con as they struggled to survive; supporting each other through thick and thin and comforting each other for the loss of their parents. They escaped the town for a tiny island, only to be surrounded by strangers who become more than that, especially to Dorothy. I can imagine being entranced by the building of the chapel and mesmerised by the inside of it. Not to mention the exotic Italian men who created it!

Is there a lasting thought or memory from the book which remains with me long after the novel is finished?

Self sacrifice ~ Dorothy and Con gave up their seclusion to be war time nurses on the main island, and yet their gain was to keep safe from harm.

Then there was ultimate self sacrifice ~ I will not expand on this to be a spoiler, but it made me question, and still does when thinking about it:

  • ‘How much do I give of myself for the benefit of others?’ ‘In the end is it true that I gain as much myself, as I give?’
Many people talk of ‘service before self.’

What do you think?

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Filed under Book reading, Book reviews, Reading a novel

Five Star Review for ‘MISSING Past and Present ~ my latest ~ ‘Mystery Inspired by History’

3dcropped

Reviewed in the United Kingdom 

Format: Kindle Edition

“MISSING, Past and Present is a wonderful book, with two captivating stories.

In the first we follow Dorothy’s journey as she becomes homeless following the disappearance of her husband and the arrest of her foster son. This story is told by Dorothy as she thinks back on her life, family and friends, and how she ended up in her present circumstances.

The second story is Millie’s, which is written by Dorothy after a chance discovery of a journal in the Grange, the uninhabited house she occasionally squats in.

The book is well written and the characters are dimensional and believable… including those from Dorothy’s imagination.

MISSING, Past and Present was an enjoyable read. Both stories were fascinating and held my attention throughout.”

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Filed under Author Diana Jackson, Book reading, Book reviews, MISSING Past and Present, Mystery inspired by history series, Reading a novel