Book: Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrowcategories: Book, Saga, Women's Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Forties Britain, WW2 Fiction
Judith Barrowabout this book: Pattern of Shadows is the story of Mary Howarth, a nurse in a hospital attached to a German prisoner of war camp in the North of England: of her love for two men, Frank Shuttleworth and Peter Schormann and her attempts to hold a dysfunctional family together in a country struggling against the hardships of the Second World War.
Frank is not the man Mary thinks he is. Peter should be the enemy. Mary's secret puts her life, and the lives of those around her, in danger.
Pattern of Shadows was inspired by Glen Mill, a disused cotton mill in Lancashire, which was the first German POW camp. Glen Mill brought back a personal memory of my childhood. My mother was a winder in a similar mill. I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember: the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden gate; the women singing and shouting above the noise, of them whistling for more bobbins; the colours of the cotton and cloth. Above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease - and in the storage area - the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales. And the sound of the siren, announcing the end of the shift.
When I thought of Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. There would be no machinery, only vehicles coming and going; the only voices would be those of men, with a language and dialect so different. I imagined the subdued anger and resignation. There would be no riot of colour, just an overall drabness. And the tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres would be replaced by the reek of 'living' smells.
And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in.
It took me four years to write Pattern of Shadows, keeping my potential readers in mind; women like me. After all, if the novel didn't enthral me it certainly wouldn't my readers.
Although it isn't the first book I've written, it was the first book I submitted to a publisher. And Honno, The Welsh Women's Press, is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of books they want to publish and don't accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing was hard and led to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides. But when it came to the cover both sides instantly agreed the image was perfect for Pattern of Shadows.
Writing, and completing, Pattern of Shadows made me realise how far I would push myself to produce the best writing I could. I just want my reader to enjoy the story.
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