- Historial Fiction
- Women’s Fiction
- Print Length: 448 pages
- Publisher: riverrun (12 July 2018)
Of everyone in her complicated family, Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter – and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she’s hit by a greater loss – of the questions, he never answered, and the past he never shared.
It’s then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.
But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel – of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.
Kim Sherwood’s extraordinary first novel is a powerful statement of intent. Beautifully written, moving and hopeful, it crosses the tidemark where the third generation meets the first, finding a new language to express love, legacy and our place within history.
| Interview |
- Where did the inspiration come from for your current book?
When my grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away, I was cut adrift by grief and began writing Testament to try and find myself again, and to articulate my loss. At the same time, my grandmother on my father’s side, who is Hungarian Jewish and a Holocaust Survivor, told me about her childhood experiences for the first time. I began to research the Holocaust in Hungary, and the novel grew from all I was learning.
- Do you have a special ritual that you do when you finish writing a book?
In many ways, publication day was the first time I felt like I’d finally finished writing Testament, so maybe that’s the start of some new rituals. The first thing I did on publication day was visit Mr B’s Reading Emporium in Bath, where I signed some copies of Testament and then had my pen added to the authors’ pens ceiling, which was very exciting. My partner bought me a new pen afterwards. My sister and best friend baked me a cake that looked uncannily like my book cover. So maybe for all future books, I’ll demand a pen installation ceremony, a new pen, and a cake.
- What has been your favourite read of 2018, so far?
Ooh, that’s a tough question. Can I pick a book from last year that I read this year and a 2018 book? The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers brings landscape and history to life so viscerally, and Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City gives the communities of North London, my home, such searing voice.
- Could you, please share with us a photograph that tells a story?
This picture shows the memorial to the dead at Theresienstadt – the ghetto and concentration camp outside of Prague – and the walls of the Small Fortress, where saboteurs were tortured. To me, the shadow of the Star of David stretching over this site is incredibly powerful.
- If you could pick three books that have influenced your life, what would they be and why?
That’s an even tougher question! OK: The Oxford English Dictionary, Primo Levi’s If This is a Man, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I started collecting dictionaries when I was about ten – I’m just that cool – and got the one volume Oxford English Dictionary for my thirteenth birthday. My grandfather gave me the big two-volume edition before I went to university. My mother gave me my oldest dictionary, an 1870s edition of Dr Johnson’s Dictionary. The history of words, their multiplicities and connections, make up the marrow of my writing. So much of art is about articulating what you yourself cannot, and If This is a Man helped me ask, if this is a man, how can we live with ourselves, and,if Primo Levi is a man, might there be no limit to a human being’s capacity for survival and grace. Wolf Hall utterly expanded my understanding of what fiction set in the past can achieve, both in terms of its deeply textured world, and how it unsettles received understandings. It also showed me how very deep into character a writer can go. I owe Wolf Hall a lot.
- If your book had its own theme song, what would it be?
‘Mad About the Boy’ by Dinah Washington. My grandfather loved to dance, and was always the last off the floor at a party. For his funeral, my mother created an amazing playlist of his favourite songs, and songs that reminded us of him. The playlist opened with ‘Mad About the Boy’, and I listened to it a lot as I wrote Testament. It reminds me of George, and the day we said goodbye to him, which in a strange way was a wonderful family moment because we all came together from across the world. It also makes me think of Silk, one of the main characters of the novel, whose charm and eminence as an artist turns the people around him into something a lot like an audience: they’re all mad about the boy.
- If your book was made into a movie who would you like to play the main characters?
I’m terrible at this question! I had the charm and vulnerability of actors like Cary Grant and Clark Gable in mind when I wrote Silk. Sir Ian McKellen would make a wonderful older Silk. Ian McKellen makes a wonderful anything, really.
Do you have any questions for your readers?
Well, if readers could tell me who should play my main characters if Testament is ever made into a film I’d really appreciate it!
- Lastly, if you could say something to your reader before they start your book what would it be?
Thank you for buying a copy, and I hope you enjoy it. Oh, also, I’d really recommend going to Budapest if you haven’t before. Another also! If you are interested in history, I’d also recommend chatting with your parents and grandparents about their memories and checking out your local archives. Every archive I’ve visited has something totally fascinating and unexpected, so it’s always worth going for a rummage.
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