Writing

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Research and preparation are everything, and by the time Lisa Manterfield rolls up onto the terrace in Laguna Beach, there is an iced gin and tonic already waiting for her. When I ask Lisa if she had any trouble finding the terrace bar, she tells me it was pretty straightforward: just follow the smell of the sea and the magnetic pull of cocktails. It’s hard to argue with logic like that.

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Ffirst the boring bit: I was given the opportunity to review Lisa Manterfield’s new novel, The Smallest Thing, prior to its release. I received a complimentary early review copy from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation has been received or implied for this review, nor was I given guidance about review content. All the opinions expressed here are my own.

Now the fun bit: Lisa Manterfield’s second novel is a winner. The Smallest Thing is the engaging and wonderfully written story of Emmott Syddall, a seventeen-year-old English girl whose bucolic Derbyshire village is afflicted with a mysterious, deadly pandemic.

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The quality of life is in proportion to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.

Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ii was given the opportunity to review Lisa Manterfield’s new novel, A Strange Companion, prior to its release. Before I get to the review, I want to say that I received a complimentary early review copy from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation has been received or implied for this review, nor was I given guidance about review content. All the opinions expressed here are my own.

Having said all that, A Strange Companion comes out April 4th. Friends, you want this one.

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Even at sea Katya had followed him, like the stars, invisible by daylight, at night everywhere.

Stewart O'Nan, City of Secrets

Tthe Aisne River flows in a northeast direction through northern France, at least until it reaches Reims, where it bends nearly due west and continues to its confluence with the Oise, and then on to the Seine and into the English Channel at Honfleur and Le Havre. The scenery alongside its banks is tranquil and bucolic, lined with trees and pastures as it has been for centuries.

In 1917 a ferocious battle was fought between French and German armies for a ridge near the Aisne River called Chemin des Dames, which translates to English as “the ladies’ path,” and was the preferred route for the daughters of Louis XV when they journeyed from Paris to the Château de Boves.

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“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Isabelle Dequenne’s great-great-grandfather (or, if you prefer, her arrière-arrière-grand-père) Frédéric Dequenne was an Alsatian winemaker and a perceived Protestant. In 1871, the Prussian Otto von Bismarck besieged Paris, reduced Europe’s most epicurean diners to eating dogs, cats, rats, and flowers, and subsequently annexed Alsace-Lorraine for Germany. Not wishing to be German, Frédéric fled Alsace and settled among distant relatives in the Manche department of Normandy in the village of Pont-Bocage. Upon arriving in Normandy, Frédéric abandoned his perceived Protestantism, converted to a perceived Catholicism, and began distilling brandy. As a point of curiosity, Frédéric brought with him a Swedish wife named Karin Cecilia. No one knows how they met, only that she was young and beautiful, he was handsome, and there was a boat to Denmark involved. From the Brechard branch of the family Frédéric bought land that sat on the edge of the marshes beneath Pont-Bocage and called the farm Chez Marais, where he planted an orchard of apple trees and established a herd of dairy cows. Frédéric ingratiated himself among the local citizenry and by the time Isabelle was born fifty years later, the insular villagers were cautiously contemplating the possibility of perhaps thinking of maybe recognizing the …

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