Publication Date: 1st March 2021
Publisher: Heywood Press
Page Length: 360 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
When Dorothy Linford marries former German internee, Franz Hartmann, at the end of WWI, she’s cast out by her father, Joseph, patriarch of the successful Linford family.
Dorothy and Franz go to live in a village in south-west Germany, where they have a daughter and son. Throughout the early years of the marriage, which are happy ones, Dorothy is secretly in contact with her sister, Nellie, in England.
Back in England, Louisa Linford, Dorothy’s cousin, is growing into an insolent teenager, forever at odds with her parents, Charles and Sarah, and with her wider family, until she faces a dramatic moment of truth.
Life in Germany in the early 1930s darkens, and to Dorothy’s concern, what had initially seemed harmless, gradually assumes a threatening undertone.
Brought together by love, but endangered by acts beyond their control, Dorothy and Franz struggle to get through the changing times without being torn apart.
Dorothy stood in the centre of the nursery at the top of the house, and stared around the room in which she and her younger brother and sister had spent so much time in their early years.
She’d wondered if she’d feel a sense of nostalgia for the childhood she was now about to leave firmly behind her, but she didn’t. The speed of events in the past few days, and the knowledge of where she was being sent, had left her devoid of any emotion other than acute misery.
Unfastening her dark blue nurse’s cape, she slid it from her shoulders and holding it in her hand, went across to the wall on the other side of the room and looked up at the wallpaper. Illustrations from the story of Sleeping Beauty looked back at her.
Their colour had faded beneath the light that streamed through the window after the heavy brocade curtains had been tied back. And parts of the pictures had been erased by the servants’ attempts over the years at removing the grubby marks left by three children. Her brother, Robert, had been the worst. Their nanny had never been able to stop him from drawing houses on the walls, and traces of his outlines could still be seen.
She glanced down at the large white dolls’ house that stood against the wall, and moved over to it. Kneeling, she peered into one small room after another.
The tiny inhabitants of the house were a replica of her family: the father in a dark brown three-piece suit wore a bowler hat that was the same as her father, Joseph, had insisted on wearing to show that he was a working man, despite her mother’s regular protestations that a man in his position should wear a top hat; the mother wore an elegant long mauve dress with a high neck and puffed sleeves, a replica of her mother’s favourite dress; two little girls, one older than the other, both in long-sleeved white frocks and dark cotton stockings, and a little boy in a sailor suit, who came between them in age, had been arranged at the foot of the miniature staircase.
Whenever Nellie played at families, she always arranged the three children with Dorothy on one side, herself on the other, and Robert between them—the order in which they’d been born.
Smiling at the memory, she picked up the father figure, looked at it, and put it down again. Standing up, she turned towards the metal toy pram that stood at the side of the cast-iron fireplace. A china doll dressed in a bonnet, cape and long white gown, was reclining in the pram. Its pale blue eyes wide open, it stared up at her in perpetual surprise. How Nellie had loved that doll!
And how Robert had loved his rocking horse!
She glanced at the large white rocking horse that stood motionless in front of the window. Its silvery mane, once long and luxurious, was threadbare now after the years of enthusiastic galloping with which Robert had greeted the start of almost every day. She went across to the horse, pushed it backwards and forwards once or twice, and stood back, watching as it slowly creaked to a halt.
Then she turned and looked across at the child-sized table that stood against the far wall. Inevitably, the pink tablecloth had faded. After all, Nellie had chosen the cloth when she’d been no more than five years old. Their low wooden chairs were tucked under the table. She gave a slight shake of her head. It was impossible to believe that the three of them had ever been small enough to sit on those chairs.
A set of alphabet blocks was piled neatly on top of the table.
But there was no sign of the tea set that she and Nellie had been given. Not that they’d often played with it. Being five years older than Nellie, she’d outgrown the desire to make tea for her dolls long before Nellie had reached that stage. And Robert had shown no interest at all in participating in a tea party, not with her, not with Nellie. Over the years, all he’d ever really wanted to do was play with the set of blocks.
Her gaze lingered on the blocks, each of which had a beautifully engraved letter of the alphabet carved into one of its faces, and she smiled to herself.
They’d been given to Robert to help him learn his letters. But never once had he paid the slightest attention to the colourful letters, never once had he attempted to construct a word—his sole interest in the blocks had been as a means of building houses.
She looked at the walls again and at the pictures of Sleeping Beauty interspersed with traces of Robert’s house designs, and in her mind she rolled back the years.
For the first three of her twenty years, the nursery had been hers alone. During those three years, a different wallpaper had covered the walls. It had illustrated the poem This Is the House That Jack Built, a poem she’d never liked with its endless list of animals, and its references to killing and to the maiden all forlorn.
As she’d grown older, she’d wondered several times whether to ask her parents if the wallpaper could be changed for something she’d like. But she didn’t. She didn’t want to remind them she was a girl.
She couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been aware that her parents, who’d chosen the wallpaper in the weeks before she’d been born, had wanted a boy. They hadn’t for one moment considered that her mother, Maud, might give birth to a girl. And having a girl had been a huge disappointment.
No one had needed to tell her that—she’d always sensed it.
Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California, where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.
A few years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, and then in Cheshire.
In addition to the nine novels she’s had published, she’s had several short stories in anthologies and magazines.
Liz now lives in Oxfordshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, cinema, reading and cryptic crosswords. To find out more about Liz, visit her website at: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com
Subscribe to Emma Lombard's newsletter for book publication news and swag giveaways.