Blog Tour: The Punch and Judy Girl - Guest Post by Sheila Newberry

Today is my stop on the Blog Tour for Sheila Newberry's new novel, The Punch and Judy Girl. It was published last week by Zaffre and to celebrate, Sheila stops by to talk about:

by Sheila Newberry

The little Rosanna of my book was very like the little Sheila, visiting the pumping station on the Fens for the first time and always remembering the experience. My five cousins, four boys and a girl, all older than me, were nicknamed the Chucklenuts by my father, and they took me under their wing and I loved their hideouts, “walking the plank”, the swaying bridge over the river, their puppet shows in the evening, including their interpretation of Punch and Judy, which I enjoy to this day, and was the inspiration for my latest book, The Punch and Judy Lady. Also, I have never forgotten the trips to Ely, down the river in a leaky boat. Looking back on that wonderful time I believe was the catalyst for my desire to have a large family myself, to live somewhere they could roam free and climb trees and I would have fun with them just as my dear Aunt did with her brood...

I married young, a tall, athletic chap called John who was a dreamer like myself, but also practical, which I can’t claim to be. We had six children (and a Scottie named Seamus) when we took the plunge and bought a rundown smallholding with an orchard and a house built Colonial style in Kentish weatherboarding with a bath (with no plumbing) but plenty of rooms to explore, and mice in the pantry... We arrived there , crammed into our Morris 8 and spilled out it seemed, with children intent on exploring the orchard. As I held the baby, Michael, a few months old, little Sara Louise called out: “Oh, look, Mummy and Daddy, we’re knee deep in plums!” Crawling towards her was the elderly baby Christopher, who was intent on eating the juicy Victorias which were nestling in the long grass. I cried: “Watch out for wasps!” Jonathan, the eldest was seven, and he was already climbing high up an apple tree, followed by Virginia aged three, the dark haired one among all the blondies. Joanna, a year older, was inseparable from her sister, but she kept her feet on the ground. We had our first picnic meal out there, then helped John put the beds up and had an early night. Tomorrow was another day! 

Memories: Our first Christmas there when all the children except Jon were in bed with mumps, I ran a nail through my foot, breaking up a box for firewood, and John arrived home with the turkey and tree, and then subsided into bed too, with flu. Jon and I had to break the ice on the water for the chickens, and hobbling on a broomstick crutch he and I went next door to feed our neighbours incontinent cats. I won’t describe the pong in every room, but we cleared it all up. On Christmas Day I overcooked the turkey and burst into tears, because there was only me and my Jonny at the table, and he was trying to carve up! And that was the time when John put dried Christmas Greenery on the fire and we had to call the fire brigade...

We were surrounded by Romany families, one of them asked if he could put his caravan in the orchard, “We won’t be no trouble, Missus, we can connect ourselves to the electricity!” He once painted our house, it was a disaster. But we had many friends among them, and it was the Queen of the gypsies who told me I’d be famous when I was old! I wrote many letters for them, mostly to the council, but once to Sister Susie “On the Common, Sussex.”

I never wanted to leave our paradise, but children grow up (we added Roger, Katharine and Matthew to the family there), and they spread their wings. And so did we. But you can’t take memories away, can you? 

About the book:

Title: The Punch and Judy Girl
Author: Sheila Newberry
Published: May 4th 2017 by Zaffre


Suffolk, 1925.

After the death of her father, a much-loved Punch and Judy man, May Moon packs her bags and moves to the seaside in the hope of continuing his legacy.

Already tasked with looking after her younger sister, May little imagines her summer will grow tougher still. Her long absent mother has finally returned - and with an agenda all of her own.

But as May struggles to balance her family's competing demands - and honour her father's legacy - she's surprised to discover her passion for performing grows ever stronger.

As the world around her begins to change, might she finally be able to find a dream of her own?

A warm-hearted and nostalgic saga perfect for readers of Katie Flynn and Sheila Jeffries.

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