‘Tamarisk’ cover and the themes of my new novel
The 80th Anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy takes place on June 6th 2024. There will be ceremonies around the world to remember those who took part in the debarquement when the Allied forces swam ashore under fierce bombardment from the Germans in order to secure a bridgehead into Europe. The wartime Normandy beaches with their trails of barbed wire are featured in b/w on the cover of my new novel Tamarisk, with the blooming Tamarisk tree in colour on one side. The novel is about love and war in France and England, and what happens in the post-war world. The cover is intended by the designers to reflect a message of hope, that healing can occur after the trauma of war, symbolised by the Tamarisk tree which grows along the margins of the Northern beaches in France, as it does in England. It is a tree/shrub which is renowned for being able to survive, even when it is blackened by fire and seemingly completely destroyed. I saw it as a symbol of France, which was so terribly damaged after the war, especially in the North, and yet has flowered again to take its place in the world.
I have spent 43 years researching Tamarisk, my eighth book, but the last to be published so far. Every year in June, I stay in the pretty seaside town of Ouistreham, in the Villa Andry, the first building to be liberated after the landings, overlooking the Normandy wartime beaches. I was there too a few days after the 70th and the 75th Anniversaries. I remember there were cornflowers, red, white and blue, planted beside the beaches. Families on holiday walked together down the wooden walkway to the sea, with the flags of the Allied countries flying on either side where once the German guns bombarded soldiers coming ashore from the landing craft, the sea turning red with the blood of the wounded. I so often think of all those brave souls who lost their lives in the landings, fighting for the restoration of peace in the world. The French Resistance too, who did such brave work behind the lines in preparation for Operation Overlord by cutting German communications, also featuring largely in Tamarisk. It would have been almost impossible for those men and women to imagine a peaceful future, a future many of them were destined never to see. It is their precious gift to us. These children playing happily on the sands, building sandcastles and running up and down the walkways to the sea are testament to the bravery of all the soldiers who took part in the debarquement. It will always be important to remember them.
A major theme in Tamarisk, which runs through the story, is how we deal with the Peace after War, how we survive War – if we do – and how we restore Life. The book is set partly on the farm Le Tamaris, close to the Normandy beaches where the Tamarisk bushes bloom once again. I hope it is a book which accurately reflects those two worlds of War and Peace. The theme too is very important given the current war in Ukraine and all the issues it throws up for us in the West.