A powerful love story set during the Second World War is the subject of The Very White of Love by acclaimed journalist Simon Worrall.
Author Simon Worrall will be in conversation with Sally Laverack at Bridport Literary Festival on Thursday 8 November at The Bull Hotel Ballroom at 10am.
The novel was inspired by the author’s discovery of a chocolate box full of love letters between his mother, Nancy, and her fiancé, Martin Preston, the nephew of the poet Robert Graves.
He has pieced together a fictional narrative using the genuine letters to write his first novel, a heartbreaking and timeless love story.
Worrall’s mother met Preston in Oxford in 1938 while she was working as a secretary in London and he was studying at the university, at St Edmund’s College, ‘and they had fallen madly in love’.
After a whirlwind romance, the couple got engaged just before Martin was sent to the battlefields of France in 1939. He told Nancy their love would keep them safe.
Then one day, his letters stopped.
“Right up to her death, under the glass on her dressing table, next to pictures of my father and her three children, she kept a faded photograph of Martin, sitting on a bench in Oxford, in a cricket blazer, his thick, brown hair swept back off his forehead,” Worrall said.
He revealed that he had always known of Martin’s existence and wondered what had happened to this ‘dreamy-looking, young man who looked up at us from under the glass.’
After finding the letters and reading about his mother’s wartime romance, he researched Martin’s life. He discovered the true circumstances of Martin’s disappearance on the battlefields of northern France.
Worrall said his mother had never spoken much about the story of her love affair, but the cache of letters had propelled him on a journey of discovery that took him from Buckinghamshire to abandoned blockhouses on the Maginot Line in France.
He said: “Piecing together the narrativ, I have turned this powerful story of love and war into a novel – and brought closure to the story my mother was never able to fully discover – the circumstances of Martin’s disappearance in northern France in May 1940.”
Simon Worrall is based in Hereford and has written for National Geographic, GQ, the London Times and the Guardian under the name Simon Worrall. He wrote a non-fiction book, The Poet and the Murderer, which was published by 4th Estate in 2002. The Very White of Love is his first novel.
· Tickets for the Bridport Literary Festival event are available from Bridport Tourist Information Centre on 424901. For more information visit www.bridlit.com