Friday, 21 August 2015

A trip to Portugal

Here, in my hands at last, is the Portuguese edition of The Housemaid's Daughter... A Cor do Coracao!

The title's literal translation (thanks to Google translate) is 'The Heart Colour'. This echoes several of the other translated titles e.g. the Dutch (de Kleur van haar Hart) and the Polish (Kolor jej Serca).

I quickly checked the glossary at the back of the book to see how the translator had dealt with some of the uniquely African phrases in the book. Hardy readers of this blog will remember my delight at the elegant French rendering of the word doek, which is the headscarf that African women traditionally wear. The French called it a foulard, as in un foulard de soie - a silk scarf. The Portuguese have chosen to translate it as a simple handkerchief or cloth tied around the head. Either way, I hope that Portuguese readers will empathise with Ada's life, from the kaia where she lives as a child at the bottom of the garden to the tokoloshe (espirito maligno!) that she fears will take her away to hell...

The Portuguese publishers have produced a beautiful, African themed cover, with embossed lettering and a background watermarking of a musical score.
So far, the reviews are looking good.
Recommendo muitissimo!
Umu leitura que me deu muito prazer
... a read that gave me a lot of pleasure!
Thank you - and may she fly!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Social networking... literary-style

Have you heard of a free online Book Club with over 20 million members?

A place where you can share your favourite reads, check out what other people are reading, ask questions of authors?
This is Goodreads, the extraordinary social networking site for book lovers.

I came across it a couple of years ago. You can join various forums depending on the kind of books you like. If, like me, you find the sheer number of new books overwhelming, this is a great way to narrow down your selection. You can be a regular user, or you can dip in and out.

When it came to the publication of my own book, The Housemaid's Daughter, I wondered how I'd find life on the other side of the Goodreads fence as an author.
It's been lively! And a privilege... I've exchanged views with readers, read what they thought of the book, and answered their questions. Through their input, I've also been directed to authors and books that were new to me, and opened my eyes to fresh worlds.

Goodreads has been a great platform. About 10 000 people have added my book to their list, with 7 000-odd marking it as to-read. I've received over 2000 starred ratings, with the majority being either 4 or 5 star. And 400 readers have actually taken the trouble to write a review. Thank you!

There is one section of my Goodreads page that I always check, where readers post a quote from my book that they particularly like.
Here is the one that has scored the most interest. It's in the words of Cathleen, the Irish matriarch of Cradock House, reflecting on her journey from Ireland to make a new life in South Africa and the challenge she faces...

And I remind myself that wherever one finds oneself, home and love is lent to each of us only for a while.
We must care for it while it's ours, and cherish its memory once it's gone.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Recognise this church?

You may be surprised to find out that it isn't the famous St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London, but a church modeled on its design thousands of miles south! Yes, this is the Dutch Reformed Church in Cradock, South Africa.

Built one hundred and forty years after the Wren-inspired London masterpiece (actually designed by one James Gibbs), the Cradock church had a slightly bumpy start. At the opening ceremony in 1868, attended by thousands of folk who had come in from the surrounding farms and hamlets, the builder refused to hand over the keys because money was still owed to him. Given that the cost of construction was some £24000, presumably the IOU was not a small amount! A whip-around among the many worthies in attendance led to sufficient funds being collected to appease him, and the keys were duly handed over and the ceremony proceeded.

Since that time, the church has continued to sit proudly above the centre of Cradock, an unmistakable landmark as you approach the town.
Ada, in The Housemaid's Daughter, notes its dominance with a little indignation:
I could imagine flying right over the broad streets of the town, past the spire of the Dutch Reformed Church - far higher than St Peter's, the Master and Madam's church...

Interestingly, it wasn't only South Africa that drew on the design of London's St Martin-in-the-Fields, shown in the picture on the left.

The iconic building inspired lookalikes even further afield in the United States, in India...

Keep an eye out on your travels!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

American Independence Day - yee-ha!

From Wisconsin to Florida, from Georgia to California... everyone's celebrating the Fourth of July!
And, in the spirit of celebration, I'd like to say thank you to so many US readers for their response to The Housemaid's Daughter.

It doesn't seem to matter where you live - or, indeed, whether you've ever been to Africa or not - the story of Ada and Cath has touched many folk. Lots of readers have also told me that the book has gone one further: it's taught them a slice of history they haven't known. We all understand the backstory of our own country and what has shaped it, but despite living in an inter-connected world with television coverage reaching into its furthest corners, we're often ignorant about the background to the places we watch on the screen. Books can help to bridge that gap.

I was hoping to be able to tell my fictional story while simultaneously reflecting the historic journey of South Africa over a period of sixty years from the 1930s to the end of the 80s. It's a time that I lived through (almost all of it!) and I felt there were aspects that I could incorporate into the book which would give readers a sense of the reality on the ground - and perhaps echoes from their own country. I didn't want the politics to overwhelm the story, but rather to make its point more subtly - through the reactions of the characters to the events that befall them.
"A history that I was not too familiar with, and characters you grow to care about.
I want my daughters to read this some day."

And it's interesting - and sad - to reflect that Ada and Cath would recognise many of the the divisions and difficulties that continue to play out today, in many parts of the world. Perhaps that's why the story still resonates...

Friday, 19 June 2015

A Bucket, a Spade, and a Book!

Two pieces of news this week about the French edition of The Housemaid's Daughter, Une Chanson pour Ada

I have just received my copies of the new "Pocket" edition, which is exactly that: a compact version, designed to be convenient enough to fit into a reasonable-sized pocket, and on sale shortly. It has a fresh cover, which you can see from the photo. Once again, a publisher has put a particular stamp on its version. The original Chanson featured a romantic heroine and child, gazing into the distance, but somewhat isolated from one another. In the Pocket edition, the two figures are far more connected, and very much reminiscent of Irish Cathleen keeping a watchful eye on the young Ada. May they fit into many pockets/handbags...

Hard on the heels of Pocket, comes news that my French publisher has selected Une Chanson pour Ada to be part of their special summer promotion, in association with Fnac, the biggest book retailer in France. Twenty titles have been chosen, on the basis of being ideal 'beach' reads. The promotion takes place from mid July to early August, so that readers can arm themselves with diverting literature before they set off on holiday.
Sounds good to me.

A la plage!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Cradock Evi!

Welcome to The Housemaid's Daughter in Turkish!

As ever, when a new translation appears, I pore over the cover, the subtitles, the glossary etc for an insight into the particular style and interest of the readers who will be taking my book home.

A sense of place is clearly important for the newly-translated Turkish edition. Cradock House makes it onto the cover for the first time in any of the translations. Not content with taking centre stage, it also provides the title for the book... Cradock Evi ... Cradock House. The subtitle of Hismetcinin Kizi refers to the (house)maid's daughter. And she is very appealing, making her way through tall grass towards the distant building. It's certainly a pretty and poignant cover, and it seems to have hit the spot with local readers, who have posted many pictures of the book on social media, especially photo sharing sites, where Cradock Evi has been shown alongside inviting cups of coffee (!) and bright sprays of flowers. Thank you to my diligent Turkish readers!

If you happen to come across a copy while on holiday in Turkey, do let me know and post a pic!
Until then, good luck to Ada and Cath as they take their story to Turkey, may they find a growing audience...
Iyi Sans!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Housemaid's Daughter... by another name

I have a very creative member of my family who decided to make a mosaic of the foreign translations of The Housemaid's Daughter!

It's fascinating to see the various covers alongside one another, and compare them for appeal and tone.

So here they are, in loosely top to bottom order

The Housemaid's Daughter
Une Chanson pour Ada (French)
Sobaricina kci (Croatian)
De Kleur van haar Hart (Dutch)
La Hija de la Criada (Spanish)
La bambina dagli occhi di cielo (Italian)
Dottir Hushjalparinnar (Icelandic)
Kolor jej serca (Polish)
and the Chinese...

You will also notice that there are different versions of the same translation. This is to cater for bespoke Book Club editions, Large Print, and compact "airport" editions. Missing from the lineup are the German version Schwarze Tochter, and the newly published Portuguese version A Cor do Coracao. I hope to get copies of these soon, to add to the picture.

In most cases, the foreign publishers have chosen to keep the African theme of sunset and an iconic acacia tree. However, the Dutch and Italians took a different tack, highlighting the child Ada playing with a doll, or at the piano, both of which are charming images. I am also thrilled that most covers show a faint music watermark in the background, reflecting the powerful part that music plays in the story of Ada, Cath, and Dawn.

The first time my fingers touched the ivory keys I knew music would lift my heart...