Blog Tour: The Escape - Guest Post by Clare Harvey

Today I am delighted to welcome author Clare Harvey to the blog. Her new book The Escape was published last week and to celebrate it, she' visiting several blogs on a wonderful Blog Tour. Today is my stop and Clare is talking about her forever books:

My Forever Books by Clare Harvey

Long before Marie Kondo started telling us all to only keep items that ‘spark joy’, I was happy to donate piles of old books to schools, friends or charity shops; I’m a book lover, but not a book hoarder. I suppose it’s a legacy of 17 years married to a soldier; the army posted us to a new home every two years or so, and I always de-cluttered each move. However, each time we did get a posting order and I began to think about having a clear out, there were always some books I found I just could not part with. These are my ‘forever books’, the ones that hold too many memories to part with – the ones that I’d tell Marie say “ching” when I see them:

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr:

Before I could read myself, this is the book that had me enthralled. I’m the youngest child, so I was still at home with my mum when my elder sisters went to school. We lived in Devon at the time. I would sit on Mum’s knee, at the kitchen table after lunch, and this is one of the books I can remember her reading to me. I can also remember that we had a somewhat wayward collie dog called Scamper who used to get jealous. By the end of the story Scamper was usually sitting on Mum’s knee and I was on the floor (Mum carried on with the story, regardless)! I read this to my own children when they were small, too.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

When I’d just turned seven we moved from Devon to Mauritius, due to my dad’s job. I’d not long learned to read properly, but because we had no TV out there I read, lots, and soon became a total bookworm (as the photo shows). I read all the Little House on the Prairie series of books, many times over, and fell in love Laura Ingalls Wilder as an author and as the heroine of the stories. Looking back, what’s interesting is that these books aren’t fiction, they are memoir: a blend of personal history and story telling. And the kind of writing I love to do most is where real-life events are melded with fiction. So perhaps my writing career really began with reading the Little House on the Prairie all those years ago.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin:

When I was 12 I was sent to a state boarding school (a comprehensive school that had a boarding ‘hostel’ attached) in Devon. My mum bought me this copy of Pride and Prejudice before I went, and I remember her saying she thought I was ‘old enough’ for Austen. I tried – but failed – to read it. I think the language was just a little too impenetrable for a 12-year-old and I didn’t get around to reading, and loving, this book until I was a few years older. Nevertheless, this copy of Pride & Prejudice stayed on my bedside locker in the dormitory throughout my first traumatic year at school, a constant reminder of my mum, and of home. And when I look inside the cover I can see the bookplate that I stuck there as a homesick pre-teen, with its picture of a unicorn and my curly over-practised signature in pencil. It’s a poignant reminder of my bookish pre-teen self. 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath:

Looking at the date inside the cover of this I can see that I bought it as an 18th birthday present to myself. And if you’ve ever read any Sylvia Plath this tells you all you need to know about the angst-ridden teen I was at the time. It’s tempting to look back on my teens and twenties and yearn for those sun-kissed, cellulite-free days, but this book reminds me that what was slender and sunny on the outside, hid a dark and conflicting muddle underneath. In 1988, as well as devouring Sylvia Plath and writing some very bad poetry, I failed miserably to get a place at Oxford University, and enrolled on a foundation course at Exeter College of Art and Design. There was quite a lot of navel gazing and scribbling in notebooks going on – I’m not sure I was any fun to be around, but I do still have a few friends from that era, so perhaps I wasn’t as much of a killjoy as I recall…

Summer with Monika by Roger McGough:

Boyfriends, eh? In my early twenties I fell totally and obsessively in love with someone, in the way that you do at that age. Falling for him was like coming down with the flu. We bought this book in Waterstone's in Exeter, and read it together. I thought our relationship was destined to be chapter four (‘our love will be an epic film, with dancing songs and laughter, the kind in which the lovers meet, and live happy ever after…’), but I should really have focussed more on the latter sections of McGough’s wonderful poem-story, such as chapter 39 (‘I wanted my pie in the sky, but you gave it me in the face’). Still, to paraphrase the wise and talented Joanna Trollope, you can’t be a writer until you’ve been knocked about a bit by life – otherwise you have nothing to write about – so even doomed relationships with manipulative men are never wasted, if you’re an author. Summer with Monika helped me form the back-story for the character of Miranda in my new book, The Escape, and eagle-eyed readers might notice a phrase or two from the poem appearing in her timeline.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde:

After graduating from university I lived with the pie-in-the-face boyfriend (see number 5) for a while. An old friend of his was on leave from the army one Christmas time, and had come to visit. On Christmas morning pie-in-the-face and I were going off to visit our respective families for Christmas Day, but the army mate said he wasn’t going anywhere and intended to spend the day eating takeaway pizza and drinking beer in front of the telly. When I asked why he wasn’t going home to see his own family, he told me that his mother had died a couple of years previously and he couldn’t face spending Christmas Day with his father and new stepmother. Feeling sorry for him, I gave him a present of a wrapped copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray (originally meant for pie-in-the-face, even though I knew he wouldn’t appreciate it). Instead of watching telly all day, the army bloke read Oscar Wilde, and enthused about the book when I saw him again after Christmas. And you know what? Reader, I married him (six years later). We have just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary.

Into Enemy Arms: the remarkable true story of a German girl’s struggle against Nazism and her daring escape with the Allied airman she loved.

I couldn’t do this list without including this fascinating book, which provided the stepping-off point for the character of Detta in The Escape. Anyone who’s read it will know how much I’m indebted to Michael Hingston’s moving memoir of his aunt’s experiences in wartime Germany. It’s the latest ‘forever book’ on my shelves, but I’m sure it won’t be the last…

The Escape is out now in paperback, e-book and Audible.

You can catch up with Clare here: 
Facebook: @clareharvey13
Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Instagram: @clareharvey13

About the Book:

Title: The Escape
Author: Clare Harvey
Published: January 24th 2019 by Simon & Schuster

Blurb: One winter morning in Germany in early 1945, Detta passes a group of exhausted British prisoners of war who are being force-marched westwards. One man catches her eye and she cannot forget him. The following day she receives an urgent message to contact the local priest: he needs her help. 

Miranda is a photography student in Berlin in 1989 as the Wall falls. Trapped in an abusive relationship, her one hope for escape is an old postcard of the village her grandmother, Detta, was born in. As Miranda flees through the rubble of the Berlin wall and into the East, she begins to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi.

Two very different timelines; two women who share a history and a dark secret. Can they save each other now the time has come to reveal it?

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