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Today we have a special interview feature with author Eliza Graham. Author of the acclaimed The Lines We Leave Behind.
💫 Back of the book
England, 1947: A young woman finds herself under close observation in an insane asylum, charged with a violent crime she has no memory of committing. As she tries to make sense of her recent past, she recalls very little.
But she still remembers wartime in Yugoslavia. There she and her lover risked everything to carry out dangerous work resisting the Germans—a heroic campaign in which many brave comrades were lost. After that, the trail disappears into confusion. How did she come to be trapped in a living nightmare?
As she struggles to piece together the missing years of her life, she will have to confront the harrowing experiences of her special-operations work and peacetime marriage. Only then can she hope to regain the vital memories that will uncover the truth: is she really a violent criminal…or was she betrayed?
💫From the Editor
What does it feel like to be accused of a crime you’re sure you didn’t commit, but which you can’t remember? That’s what Maud has to deal with in this emotionally charged novel about the aftermath of the Second World War.
The Lines We Leave Behind is a beautifully written novel that leaves you desperate to understand how Maud—sweet-natured, earnest, and quiet—has found herself confined to an asylum, forced to relive the war years in an attempt to remember her crime. Has she done something truly awful, or is this a terrible injustice? Not even she knows. A life can go in unexpected directions: for Maud, a chance meeting with a man in London before the war leads to a life of subterfuge and espionage in war-torn Yugoslavia, during the most tense days of the conflict.
It is only years after the war, with the return to normality, that Maud is able to find answers. I found the utter hopelessness that Maud feels, the stifling expectations placed upon her after a time of exhilarating adventure, heartbreaking to read. As step by step the truth comes to light, both Maud and the reader are left breathless as they realize that something far bigger has been happening all along. And as the reality consumes Maud, so it will consume you—this is definitely a book that will stay with you long after you’ve discovered its secrets.
– Victoria Pepe, Editor
Eliza Graham spent biology lessons reading Jean Plaidy novels behind the textbooks, sitting at the back of the classroom. In English and history lessons she sat right at the front, hanging on to every word. At home she read books while getting dressed and cleaning her teeth. During school holidays she visited the public library multiple times a day.
At Oxford University she read English literature on a course that regarded anything post about 1930 as too modern to be included. She retains a love of Victorian novels.
Eliza lives in an ancient village in the Oxfordshire countryside with her family. Her interests (still) mainly revolve around reading, but she also enjoys walking in the downland country around her home.
Find out more about Eliza on her website: http://www.elizagrahamauthor.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @Eliza_Graham.
• Where did the inspiration come from for your current book?
There was no one particular event or insight—there seldom is with any of my books— but a kayaking trip to a small Croatian island that was the site of a wartime atrocity started me thinking. This is a beautiful coastline, idyllic, really, but then there’d been these murders of prisoners of war on this tiny island. I studied Wordsworth at university and always was of the belief that nature was a force for good, but sometimes dreadful things occur in glorious places. Naively this continues to shock me.
I was also simultaneously fascinated by the treatment of psychiatric patients in the 1940s and 1950s: the therapies sounded such a mixture of the benign to the terrifying. My protagonist spends some years trying to persuade people that she is not mad and trying to get herself released from various institutions. Before being committed she was in a relationship that we would now term one of coercive control. Researching what goes on in such marriages and partnerships was frankly shocking.
• Do you have a special ritual that you do when you finish writing a book?
I try hard not to indulge in a bout of internet shopping!
• What has been your favourite read of 2018, so far?
I actually first read it in 2016, when I started researching The Lines We Leave Behind, but a constant presence this year has remained Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, part travel literature from her trips to what was then Yugoslavia, part essays on life and politics. At the copy-editing stage, I frequently dipped back into it to fact-check or for inspiration on, for example, what kind of blossom might bloom at various times of the year in various parts of former Yugoslavia.
• Could you, please share with us a photograph that tells a story?
I’m smiling in this photo, but it’s a kind of grimace, really, as this is a memorial to German and Croatian prisoners of war who were murdered on a small Croatian island, Jakljan. We came across the memorial while kayaking and it triggered some ideas that eventually led to me writing The Lines We Leave Behind. While my husband was taking the photo an elderly woman on a small fishing boat who was possibly demented, psychotic or drunk or a combination of these was screaming at her husband. Oh, and then we saw the remains of a rather gloomy abandoned children’s holiday camp. We were going to stop for a picnic, but decided to paddle on.
• If you could pick three books that have influenced your life, what would they be and why?
I don’t know whether they’ve influenced me, but books that continue to linger in my mind are still Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. I can’t think of a third one—or, rather, I can think of a laundry list of third ones, so I’ll stick with two!
• If your book had its own theme song, what would it be?
Quiet Moon, sung by Laura Vall, has the quiet note of lamentation that, for me, expresses both the sadness of warfare and Maud’s sense of total isolation later on in the book. It’s obviously anachronistic, though. Even more anachronistic is Prince’s When Doves Cry, but the lyrics did flash through my mind a couple of times while writing the book, for reasons that may become clear to anyone who’s read The Lines We Leave Behind.
• If your book was made into a movie who would you like to play the main characters?
Bella Thorne looks like I imagine young Maud/Amber would, but another, British, casting choice for Maud/Amber further along the timeline would be Romola Garai.
Robert could perhaps be played by Julian Ovenden or Matthew Goode.
• Lastly, if you could say something to your reader before they start your book what would it be?
Do go to Croatia and Slovenia if you haven’t already been. Gorgeous countries. I haven’t yet been to Serbia or Montenegro, but they are on my ‘Former Yugoslavia’ list, too.
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