Categories
After Paris Historical Fiction Torn Asunder

Ripples On The Water

One of my favourite books is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. In a nutshell, set in London after World War 1, the main character, Clarissa Dalloway sees her job as creating connections between people and to that end the story focuses on a party she is throwing. During her preparations for the party, Mrs. Dalloway’s mind continually travels back and forth across time and in this way the reader is in both the past and the present, raising the concept of endless possibilities that could/might happen through these human connections.

When I wrote my second Historical Fiction, After Paris, I was inspired by an old photo album of my grandmother’s. She (Mary Thomson) was a Dutch nurse who went to Paris to work in WW1.

Text Box: Figure 1 Mary Thomson_Max Meijer

Although the Netherlands was neutral during WW1, Dutch benevolent societies funded medical teams to support the Allies. Mirroring my grandmother’s experience, my main character goes to work in a hospital fully funded and staffed by the Dutch ‘Ambulance’ situated in a fine dining restaurant (still there today) called Le Pré Catelan in the Bois de Boulogne (Paris), which, for the duration of the war was transformed into a hospital.

The story continues after the war as my character struggles to fit back in to society, and with the loss of her career and confidence she makes a series of poor choices on her journey to reinvention and self-awareness.

The reason I am so bold as to mention both Mrs. Dalloway and After Paris in the same piece is because a reader of my book reached out to me to tell me that her grandmother had also been a Dutch nurse in Le Pré Catelan. Through a series of email notes and a scour through my photo album, I discovered a photo of her (Laurie’s) grandmother. There, in my grandmother’s writing was the name of her friend, Catherina Theadora Warnsinck (nicknamed ‘To’).

How magical is it that more than one hundred years after the end of WW1 a woman in California (Laurie) forges a connection with a woman living in rural Ontario Canada (me!) because two Dutch nurses were friends..and because of a book?

Being an author is a constant delight to me. It’s a thrill to tell stories that people read and enjoy. It’s an honour to follow in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf and all the other great writers as I try to reach out and make connections in a world that is increasingly alienated.

The influence that each of us writers (authors, bloggers, reviewers, marketers, poets and journalists) have is often little understood. My new book Torn Asunder looks at this question of influence. Here’s a short summary of what the book is about:

He is an inspiring journalist, but Emmet Ryan has no idea that his words have the power to destroy those he loves the most. Opening in 1916, this is a story about a conflicted man set during one of Ireland’s most turbulent eras.

Torn Asunder is now available in all the usual places – amazon, smashwords, and kobo.

Like the expanding waves that ripple out from a stone falling into still water, our words reach out and touch people in surprising ways.

I’d love to hear from you!  You can reach me at renny@rennydegroot.com

Categories
Book Chat Historical Fiction

Book Review: Triumph of a Tsar

For anyone who would like something a little bit different in the history genre, check out my review of Triumph of a Tsar by Tamar Anolic, a well-written Alternative Historical Fiction.

Triumph of a Tsar is a work of alternate historical fiction in which the Russian Revolution of 1917 is averted, and the hemophiliac Alexei, son of Tsar Nicholas II, comes to the throne. In August, 1920, sixteen-year-old Alexei is enjoying his birthday celebrations when Nicholas dies suddenly. Overnight, Alexei becomes tsar of an empire that covers one-sixth of the world’s landmass.

Thank you to the author Tamar Anolic for a complimentary copy of this novel.

It’s been a while since I read a story of Russia, although those I have read stay with me in a way so many books don’t. The detailed psychological and philosophical explorations one can expect tend to set Russian novels in a category of their own.

With this novel, Triumph of a Tsar, the author takes us on a journey in the traditional style of the great Russian novelists. The sweeping portrayal of Russian aristocracy woven with true historic events evokes a strong sense of place and time to the point where we forget that this is alternative historical fiction. Anolic has created a world peopled by characters that are believable in their behaviours and actions. The protagonist, Alexei is thrust into a role before he is ready, and yet he steps up to assume the mantle of responsibility in a way that we can see and feel. Despite those who would see him fail, he learns and grows. We, the reader, find ourselves concerned about his concerns; his health, his enemies, his family and most of all the survival of his country.

As in any good book, we need to feel connected to the story and characters, and Tamar Anolic has successfully given us that connection as we consider Alexei taking great risks while he attempts to do what he feels is right amid contradictory priorities and advice. Who amongst us has not gone against the guidance of others to forge our own path?

The author uses dialogue to great effect in moving the story forward. We hear from the characters themselves how they are coping with the unfolding dramatic events. As WWII threatens Russia, Alexei calls his family together:

“During a pause in the food service, after the borscht and pickled fish had been cleared, Alexei called the table to order. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “I know you’re all busy with the war effort, and I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done. Having the imperial family visibly involved has made a large difference, both in morale, and in our fighting strength.”

He took a deep breath. “I’ve asked you all here on something of a more personal note. The Germans have already invaded Russia’s frontiers, and they’ve set their eyes upon both of our capitals- first Moscow, and now St. Petersburg. I fear that as members of the Imperial family, we will become the Germans’ targets- not only our persons but our palaces as well.”

 

“You think the Germans would bomb our palaces?” Ioann asked. “They’re our homes!”

 

“That’s precisely the point,” Alexei said. “Besides, our palaces are huge buildings that make for easy targets for the Luftwaffe.”

This is a well researched piece of writing. The story flows and while it offers an alternative to what really happened, it still provides enough history to leave the reader satisfied.

Congratulations to Tamar Anolic on creating a fascinating book. I give it four stars and recommend it to anyone who is interested in something a little bit different.

 

About the Author

“Triumph of a Tsar” is Tamar’s second novel. She has a history of writing about the Romanovs. Her first book, the nonfiction biography entitled “The Russian Riddle,” was the first biography of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. In addition, one of her short stories focuses on Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich and his sons: “Rumors of War,” published in The Copperfield Review in May, 2017. Tamar’s first novel, “The Last Battle,” was published in 2017.

 

 

Categories
Book Chat Historical Fiction

Consumable History – Virgin to Victoria

Virgin to Victoria is a powerful retelling of the history of the British monarchy, beginning with Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, as she comes to the throne. Charting Elizabeth’s incredible journey, Virgin to Victoria travels in time through the confusion of the Stuart dynasty, the devastation of a Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell, horrific battles for the throne and the turbulent Hanover dynasty with its intricate family squabbles. Despite her amazing legacy, Elizabeth failed England in one vital area. She never married, nor did she leave an heir to the Tudor family. In making this one fateful decision, the Virgin Queen left the path open for a take-over and life would never be the same.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a complimentary copy of the book.

To be honest, I generally don’t read non-fiction, and had I realized that this is what the book was I probably wouldn’t have taken it. Having said that, I’m so very glad that I didn’t know, because I would have missed out on an excellent read.

Using a unique story-telling voice, the author skillfully crafts this creative nonfiction in a way that captures and holds the reader. She draws vivid scenes of the era and takes the reader by the hand to lead us through. As an example:

“Let’s take a quick walk around London in this era. Imagine it’s been a rainy day and you’re out for a walk. Water puddles had formed in dark alleys and the drains have overflowed down the middle of the cobbled streets as people huddle in their bedraggled hats and cloaks under dripping eaves. A horse-drawn carriage with clattering wheels speeds past on the uneven stones and carelessly splashes water on anyone who has braved the inclement weather. Normally the streets are packed with people and carriages and most days a blanket of smoke hangs over the city. The pollution gets in your eyes and stonework of every building is blackened with it…”

Now, if you aren’t in 1600’s London with that, I’m sorry for your lack of imagination.

I was drawn in to this book from the start and was delighted to learn the fascinating tid-bits of the royal families and to gain a better understanding of those that influenced and were impacted by the politics of the times.

Hughes has created a book that is both interesting and a great resource for anyone writing of the times, as the reader gains such a strong sense of the era. The settings are detailed, using all the senses to truly take us there. The characters are well-rounded and come to life in a way that usual history text-books never achieve.

According to Lee Gutkind of creativenonfiction.org, Creative Nonfiction is “the most popular genre in the literary and publishing communities” right now. According to Gutkind, the goal of this genre is to ‘enthrall’ the reader in the same way that fiction does. I would whole-heartedly agree that Hughes has achieved this goal with Virgin to Victoria.

I very rarely give a ‘five star’ review, just because I’m Dutch and we have a firm belief in the fact that there is always room for improvement, but I would have to say that for this book, I have to give Five Stars.

Congratulations Trisha Hughes.

About the Author, Trisha Hughes

Trisha Hughes is a best-selling Australian author who now lives in Hong Kong. Trisha attends workshops for children’s creative writing groups and is a mentor of a yearly young writers competition. Her first book was published 18 years ago, a best-selling autobiography called Daughters of Nazareth. Trisha has also published the first book in this historical trilogy, Victoria to Vikings.

https://www.amazon.com/Virgin-Victoria-Trisha-Hughes/dp/1912362392

Categories
Awards Historical Fiction

Feeling Grateful

Spring seems to have finally arrived in Southern Ontario and it brings with it a renewed sense of purpose as the grass greens and buds hint at the arrival of new leaves. It’s with this joy in all things gardening that I’m especially honoured to be the recipient of a Len Cullen Scholarship. This (one of two) $500-dollar scholarships is awarded by the Writers’ Community of Durham Region annually and sponsored by the Cullen family in memory of their father, who was of course, a household name in landscaping and gardening. What most people don’t realize is that Len Cullen was also a prolific poet, and his poetry could often be found in the newsletter he produced for several decades.

I look forward to applying this scholarship towards some writers-coaching to help me take my novel-in-progress (called Asunder) to a new level.

Thank you to the Cullen family for this amazing support in helping to grow my skills (which I hope will flourish more than my poor hydrangea) and to WCDR for all the encouragement, critiquing, and emotional sustenance on my writing journey.

Categories
Events Historical Fiction

Such Excitement!

At the Gallery opening of When We Came From Away. November 2017

I recently had the pleasure of being part of Northumberland County’s project to celebrate our 150th birthday. The County has created a book and show at the Art Gallery of Northumberland County called “When We Came From Away”. It showcases accounts of people coming to Canada, now living in the county. The accounts and photos of the people and cultural artifacts is a joy to see. Take a trip to Cobourg to check it out!

In other news – mark your calendars for BOOKAPALOOZA!! November 25, 10 am to 3 pm in Whitby – All things for the book-lover. Authors, books, readings, prizes. Come and start your Christmas shopping!

 

Hope to see you there.

Categories
After Paris Family Business Historical Fiction

Reviews for After Paris and Family Business

Here’s what my readers are saying about After Paris:

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve just finished “After Paris” and I absolutely loved it.

You write beautifully it has to be said. 

I thought Lisbeth’s character was very well crafted, so strong yet so vulnerable and self- doubting at times. The embodiment of that all too familiar feeling that maybe we’re not being honest with ourselves and allowing ourselves to be as happy as we should be. I also thought there was a real elegance to it and the story flowed beautifully.” G.M, Dublin, Ireland

“Set against the backdrop of World War I and the immediate post-war period, Renny de Groot’s second novel, “After Paris” traces the physical and psychological journey of Liesbeth Zwart-Bos, a young Dutch nurse. This fascinating page-turner explores the themes of the horrors of war, the role of women in society and the hardships of immigration. As we follow Liesbeth through her travels to France, back home to the Netherlands and ultimately to Canada, we simultaneously witness her voyage through her identity crisis, with her emotional maturity as the final destination. Once again Renny deGroot has proven herself to be a skilled storyteller, as we become emotionally invested in her characters and their struggles” S.E., Toronto, Canada

Have you read the book? I’d love to get your honest feedback! Click the link below to submit a review to amazon.ca:

https://www.amazon.ca/After-Paris-Renny-deGroot/dp/1532823932/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484602641&sr=1-2

Here’s what a reader said about Family Business:

Each time I dove into the words of your novel I was transported to a time and place that was brought to life with such brilliant writing. The style, the pace and the captivating narrative kept me engaged and captured by every word, phrase and emotion. As I read the novel in small bites I was constantly anticipating the moment I could catch up with Andre, Tiineke, Johan, Mary and Agatha and how their story unfolds. Your writing is so captivating and I admire you immensely. The skill you have in telling a narrative in a heart-moving yet fact based style is exceptional.What I loved about the novel were the small stories of each of the characters that together created a compelling thread of connected lives and the moments their lives are changed through theirs and others actions and decisions. It is the essence of life. We impact each other not necessarily through serendipitous actions but more so through a complex infrastructure of emotions and motivations. I feel these are what you have mastered in your work. As a reader, I was immersed in the thoughts and the external and internal drivers of each character which raised so many of my emotions.” T.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Have you read the book? I’d love to get your honest feedback! Click the link below to submit a review to amazon.ca:

https://www.amazon.ca/Family-Business-Renny-deGroot/dp/1494233231/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484602641&sr=1-1

Categories
After Paris Events Historical Fiction

Going On Tour

04_after-paris_blog-tour-banner_finalFollow me on my Virtual Blog Tour beginning September 19. Check out all the blogs where I’ll be interviewed, writing guest posts or will have my new novel After Paris reviewed. See the full schedule here: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/afterparisblogtour

For those who prefer the old fashioned tour – I’ll be doing that too:

Guysborough town library, Nova Scotia: September 20

Antigonish town library, Nova Scotia (7 pm): September 22

Categories
Book Chat Historical Fiction

WW1 And More

April is the month in which we remember the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This battle, which first saw Canada fight as the cohesive Canadian Expeditionary Force (4 Divisions) rather than as various units attached to the British Expeditionary Force, ran between April 9 and 12, and will ‘celebrate’ its 100th anniversary next year (1917).

Although Canada’s key time of remembrance comes next year, we have been looking back to WW1 since 2014, the 100th anniversary of its start. I especially have been immersed in this history for the past three years as I researched and worked on my upcoming new novel, After Paris.

I have read non-fiction books, war diaries, articles and of course many great novels, including Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, Pat Barker’s Toby’s Room, and Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants. My two favourites; however, are Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong and Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road.

three-day-road

Any and all of these books are well worth reading – not because of a great passion for war stories, but for the impact that war has on society and on the individual. They each tell stories of the anguish and lasting residue on the characters involved; some who realized a slow healing and others who didn’t. The books are timeless as the themes and situations continue in today’s world. We only need to look at the tragedy of how many suicides have occurred amongst our own Canadian soldiers to understand that the horrors of war leave a lasting footprint on those exposed.

My new book, After Paris opens in 1916 in Paris. It therefore includes a period of WW1; however, like my debut novel Family Business, it is not a war story. It is a story about a character, Liesbeth, and her experience both during and after the war. Watch for the release of After Paris in June 2016.

Categories
Events Family Business Historical Fiction

An Afternoon of Story and Song in Port Hope

Summerhill B&B-Tearoom
Summerhill B&B-Tearoom

Sunday, November 15: 1 pm-3 pm

As part of this month’s on-going celebration of authors, please join me for a reading and discussion of my debut novel Family Business, recently shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. I will be joined by recording artist and one of Canada’s best loved Irish Tenors; Jimmy Carton, who will perform a few songs a cappella.

This event is free and will be held in the beautiful and unique environment of the Summerhill B&B and Tea Room, 127 Walton St. Port Hope. Space is limited, so call to reserve your place today: 905-885-8741.

Categories
Awards Family Business Historical Fiction

Celebrating Success

Shmoozing!
Shmoozing!

What does success look like? Like a chameleon, it takes on different colours and forms depending on the time in one’s life. For me, the time may come when being Shortlisted  for an award like the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize may not be enough to warrant the great excitement; the throbbing heart; the near giddy joy that I experienced. That time may come, but for now, I feel amazingly successful. No, I didn’t win the actual prize – that honour went to Claire Battershill with her novel; Circus. Did I still feel like a winner as I chatted with other authors and members of the publishing industry at the awards gala? You bet I did. As an Indie Author, there may have been a few of those in the traditional publishing business who wondered how I came to be there, but I didn’t let that dampen my pleasure. I was shortlisted and forever after I can enjoy that triumph. And… somehow I suspect that the next time I’m shortlisted for something, I’ll be just as giddy.