|Parliament and the Thames River|
Kathleen Heady is a native of rural Illinois, but has lived and traveled in many places, including numerous trips to Great Britain. Additionally she lived in Costa Rica for seven years. Her second novel, Lydia's Story, was released in 2012. Her first novel, The Gate House, was a finalist for an EPIC award in 2011. Learn more about Kathleen at her website/blog.--AP
Since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by Great Britain and its history, probably at first because it was a country with a real queen and princesses. Later my interest developed into a desire to learn more about the history, and I read as much as I could.
I first visited Britain with my parents in 1985, and was awestruck by everything I saw. I was overwhelmed when visiting the Shambles in York, formerly a street of butcher shops, which was renovated in the 1400s! I pressed my hand against the stones in Conwy Castle in Wales, thinking of all the men and women who had passed through those passageways over the centuries. What were their dreams, desires, fears?
|Monument to Women of World War II|
But the most poignant experience occurred during our visit to St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Behind the main altar in this magnificent edifice is a small alcove dedicated to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Services who fought for the defense of Britain during World War II. My dad had tears in his eyes. He had been there and he had returned. Not everyone did.
I visited the Churchill War Rooms, the vast underground complex in London from which Prime Minister Winston Churchill directed operations during the years that Britain fought against Germany. I crossed the Thames to the Imperial War Museum, housed in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital, London's first hospital for the mentally ill, and the origin of the word "bedlam" meaning "chaos" or "madness." This museum brings alive the suffering and heroism of victims of wars since World War I. One exhibit in particular always brings a tear to my eye. In an unassuming spot on the main floor is a small wooden fishing boat, the smallest boat to cross the Channel in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.
|Ruins of Coventry Cathedral|
In Coventry, I visited the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, bombed by the Germans in 1940. Since that terrible night, the cathedral has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation.
Eventually, I decided to write Lydia's Story, in which I recreated the connection between a young woman and her ancestor, in this case her great-grandmother, who worked in her own way to defend her country during World War II.
Whether visiting historical sites or relaxing in one of London's many parks, I always travel with my eyes open. I always remember that I am a guest in someone else's culture, and that we have more in common than differences. I have returned to Great Britain several times after my initial visit with my parents, and my love for the country and culture has not faded.
A simple box of mementos, hidden in a farmhouse in Wales for nearly seventy years, is enough to set Nara Blake on a search for the truth about her great-grandparents, and to put her own life in danger. Even as she begins to read her great-grandmother's diaries, a French brother and sister, whose family lost everything in World War II, blame Nara's family for their lost wealth, which includes a priceless Cézanne painting. As both families learn the truth of their ancestors' activities during the war, they are put on a collision course that can only end in the destruction of long-held beliefs, and ultimately one must pay the price for the losses of the past.