The Glittering Hour
Coming October 2019 (UK) and December 2019 (USA)
1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them. Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself. When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed.
A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.
The story behind the story…
The Glittering Hour is my second published novel, but in between it and Letters to the Lost lie several unfinished ones.
Letters to the Lost had been a breeze to write, maybe because I was writing entirely for myself, with no sense of self-consciousness or having to please anyone; no angst about whether it was right. I had a couple of ideas simmering away for a second one, but neither of them grabbed my editor or exerted quite the same pull on me. And so the search for a story began. And went on. And on.
It was a difficult time. Writers write, and I did – endlessly, but in the miserable knowledge that what I was writing wasn’t quite coming to life as it should. I suspect that I was hugely overthinking it all (I’ll be honest – it wouldn’t be the first time) but somehow the more you search, the more elusive the magic seems when you’re writing. It was a case of stopping and waiting. Listening.
At that time, home life was particularly busy. One daughter was leaving for university and another had just returned after graduating. In the few months before she started her new job, she took on the task of typing up the fascinating (but difficult to read!) memoirs my mother had written some years ago, about her early life, up until the age of ten when her mother died. It was a story I knew well, of course, but as my daughter sat typing at the kitchen table (and I struggled to type in my office upstairs) its sadness struck me afresh, and with a sense of indignation I hadn’t felt before. About how women were treated just two short generations ago; belittled and disempowered. Without giving away any spoilers, I suddenly knew what I wanted to write about.
The Glittering Hour is not my grandmother’s story, but what happened to her that gave me a starting (and ending) point. From there I could do the enjoyable, exciting bit of creating characters and setting them in an era that has always fascinated me. The 1920s is just slipping out of living memory, but the spirit of the age has stayed vivid in the collective imagination – the blast of jazz trumpets, the swish of sequinned dresses and shingled hair, the smell of hair oil, cigarette smoke (everywhere!) and Mitsouko. It was fascinating to research all of that, and to peer beneath it and remember what had come immediately before, and was undoubtedly still fresh in the hearts and heads of most people. And then to skip forward another decade and see how the glitter had faded as the shadow economic disaster and another war crept over the nation.
It’s set partly in London, between the artists’ garrets and studios of Bloomsbury and the upmarket haunts of the Bright Young Things, but much of the action also takes place in a huge country house, sliding slowly into neglect and decay as the world moves into a new era. The two time frames are only eleven years apart (a contrast to the 70 year gap in Letters to the Lost!) but I found it fascinating to look at the differences between the two decades and appreciate the magnitude and speed of the change society was undergoing as the world moved inexorably towards its next disaster.
The process of creating a book is different every time, and for this one it certainly wasn’t easy. However, once I’d found my story it did turn out to be pretty exhilarating. The Glittering Hour will always hold a very special place in in my heart as the book that made me fall in love with writing again, and taught me that ‘difficult’ doesn’t mean ‘impossible’.
Out in UK Hardback and ebook in May 2019, UK paperback in October 2019 and US paperback December 2019
What people had to say about The Glittering Hour…
“Prepare to be swept away on an all-encompassing journey of love, loss and discovery” Woman and Home
“Gorgeously written – I loved it.’ Jill Mansell
“Stunning.’ Veronica Henry
“An epic journey of joyous hedonism and desperate heartache. Just beautiful.” Catherine Isaac
“One of the finest books of the year. Utterly compelling and exquisitely written.” Kate Furnivall