‘A family torn apart.
A past they can’t escape’
Today I am delighted to welcome author S.D. Mayes to Swirl and Thread on publication day of her novel Letters to The Pianist.
This is S.D. Mayes’ first historical suspense novel, having previously published a young adult novel, Stop the World.
Letters to The Pianist is a very personal novel for the author. It is a tribute to a very special individual in her life. Here today S.D. Mayes explains who this person is and has also provided an extract from chapter one for us all to enjoy.
Please do read on…
In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.
Four years on, Ruth, stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe.
Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets. Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?
Letters to The Pianist
Guest Post by SD Mayes
For many years I didn’t know I was Jewish.
My mother, Ruth, never spoke of her history. Only in her memoirs after she died, did I learn the real truth of our past; that her family home was bombed in the London blitz and her and her two siblings left orphaned after her parents were killed instantly.
The paperback of Letters to the Pianist, published today, on the 6th October, shines a light on the childhood she never talked about.
Writing this novel meant that I was able to investigate my ancestry and the truth of what it meant to be a Jew in middle of the blitz.
The sirens going off were a murderous signal that it could be you or your loved ones who could die that very night. Living with death hovering over your shoulder was something you had to get used, along with the burning smoke every time you walked outside the house, and the dirt, dust and rubble scattered everywhere.
Of course, the Luftwaffe were indiscriminate and Jewish or not, the relentless bombing meant you might die regardless of your ancestry or beliefs.
This isn’t just a suspense novel set in the 1940s but I hope it’s an emotional journey too, into the hearts and minds of the characters living through their own personal war – within their own hearts and moral decisions.
In writing this I felt so much sadness that in this time of death and destruction, there are still wars going on, children being orphaned and abandoned, victims ended up maimed, if not killed outright.
It is important to remember the lessons of the past, and it is important that my mother is the heroine in my book – something she never felt she was in life.
Extract from Chapter One ~ Letters to The Pianist
Way back, in 1941, when I was still young and naive, in that twilight world of adolescent confusion, I could fritter away time daydreaming for hours. In truth, all three of us: the Goldberg children, escaped into a magical world, immersing ourselves in books like The Secret Garden and Peter Pan, or transforming into castaways wrapped up in old towels pretending we were on Treasure Island foraging for food. We grew to thrive on fantasy as if it were an energy fuel, always searching for a new diversion. Anything to block out the bitter reality of London life.
Our home was a red-brick terraced house on Sandringham Road in Hackney, known as the heart of the East End, a cosy haven despite the peeling paintwork and windows so thick with dust you couldn’t see in or out.
There weren’t many families like us that remained. Our once friendly neighbourhood, with the sound of children’s laughter and neighbours chattering in the street, had long gone. It was now eerily quiet; the pavements strewn with rubble and a swamping sadness that hung in the air like the reek of burning flesh.
Most of my school friends had been evacuated, disappearing to the countryside without time for goodbyes, whilst others were horribly maimed or killed in the blitz. But our daddy was adamant. ‘We’re not staying in a stinking shelter,’ he’d say, ‘home is our anchor and they can take me on bare knuckles an’ all before I’d send you three away.’ And I felt truly blessed that he kept us together despite the dangers.
At night, when darkness came along with the night raids, I often thought of my old friends as I tried to sleep, wondering if their spirits were rejoicing in heaven or aimlessly wandering the shadowlands of Sheol. I prepared to die so many times; the sirens screeching in my ears as I’d dive under the covers frantically reciting the Shema, trying to block out the grinding roar of planes overhead and the whistling bombs raining down, the deafening boom, boom, boom as they crashed into buildings and tore them apart. It all felt monstrously chilling, the cruelty of it all; in awe that our lives were so fragile, knowing we could be snuffed out in seconds and ready for a coffin.
In the morning, I’d clamber out of bed rubbing my gritty eyes, exhausted from lack of sleep, and walk straight into my warm fuzzy bubble, brushing away my worst fears as I awaited my handsome prince, hoping he would come and save us as promised in every happy ending.
That was all I had: pretence to help save my sanity and give me some kind of antidote to pain.
Until one day my bubble popped, bursting open.
And finally, I knew.
That dreams and wishes and fairy tales were like icing on a mouldy cake – they can’t hide the truth – because when you take a proper bite, you choke.
Purchase Link ~ Letters to the Pianist
S.D. Mayes is the author of Letters to the Pianist, which is her first historical suspense novel, released September 19, 2017 in hardback and ebook.
A former journalist, she has also published a young adult novel, Stop the World.
In addition to writing fiction, she is also the author of a best-selling self-help book. She is British with one daughter and lives with her family in Berkshire.
Website ~ http://authormayes.com/
Twitter ~ @authorMayes
Facebook ~ https://www.facebook.com/authorMayes