It's an exciting day to share historical fiction AND a special date with you. This week, I'm pleased to share an excerpt of a collection of historical short stories, each one centering around the topic of exile. Talented author, Deborah Swift has written an introduction to this collection, and you can check it out below. It should give you a tantalizing taste of what you can expect from this book. I happen to know many of the ladies who are sharing stories here, so I know you won't be disappointed.
And now for my own news. Many of you have waited so patiently for me to announce a launch date for my next book. Well, here we go! On Friday, March 8, West of Santillane, the untold story of Julia Hancock will greet the world! I really can't wait to share this little piece of Virginia with everyone. It was a challenging book to write, and I needed all of the time that I've spent on it. It's presently awaiting its cover, which I'll share at a later date.
So sit back and enjoy Deborah Swift's words about EXILE, and read ON, everybody!
HISTORICAL TALES OF EXILE
Introduction by Deborah Swift
Only the misfortune of exile can provide the in-depth understanding and the overview into the realities of the world’ – Stefan Zweig (author of The Grand Budapest Hotel, exiled from Austria during Nazi occupation).
The verb ‘exile’ comes from the Old French word essillier, meaning to banish, expel, or drive off. In the past to go into exile was often a punishment, though now people sometimes live in exile voluntarily – or because life at home has become too dangerous or difficult. Alison Morton’s story My Sister, Cathie Dunn’s Exile and Elizabeth St.John’s story Into the Light emphasize this tug between the familiar world that has become unsafe, and the lure of a place where life might be lived in more freedom.
But exile is always a step into the unknown, and often holds no possibility of return. Each of us at some time in our lives has probably experienced the feeling of being an exile – of not quite fitting in to societal norms, and as in the story Into the Light the dislocation is often an internal one, as well as an external one.
Historically, leaders of countries were often sent into exile when a new leader, or new king, invaded or conquered the territory, or because someone feared they might be a threat to the new order. Exiled men were mostly members of political elites, or in the case of women, pawns to the men playing these games of ‘King of the Castle’.
This kind of banishment is harder to achieve now, as with modern technology a person can still access their home and their circle of family and friends via the internet. As a punishment, exile has become impractical, though a political leader in exile can still be considered a danger, and no doubt it is harder to deal with them in a different territory with different laws. But the past was a different land, and this collection exploits this to the full.
Exile as a theme for a story collection has all the ingredients you might need for good fiction. The falling in love between a prisoner and his jailor’s daughter, the tearing away of the familiar environment, the gulf between the self and its true home, and the arrival in an often hostile place, is a big feature of these stories. The exile need not even be to another country; Elizabeth Chadwick’s story Coming Home features a woman exiled to the Tower of London, a gilded cage but exile nonetheless. Helen Hollick’s story exploits the idea of removal from London to the remote countryside of Exmoor, and as her character St Croix says; ‘he saw the sense of honourable exile over pointless execution.’
In earlier historical periods when travel was harder, and might involve treacherous sea crossings, or traversing inhospitable landscapes on foot, the person in exile often wondered if they would ever be re-united with their roots, leading to a permanent scar of sorrow at their loss. Today’s war-torn world is full of people in exile – refugees fleeing persecution.
In many stories, and in many of these in this collection, it is the families ripped apart that take the heaviest toll; a mother separated from her child, or a wife from her husband. This is well expressed in the heart-breaking stories Unwanted Prince by Anna Belfrage and Wadan Wraeclastas (Tread the Path of Exile) by Annie Whitehead.
When Victor Hugo was exiled from France, in 1851, he did not know if he would ever see his country again. He didn’t return until nineteen years later, after the Franco-Prussian war. During all that time he was unable to visit the grave of his eldest daughter Léopoldine. For a number of years after her death, Hugo had made annual pilgrimage to her grave. In this poem written during his exile, To the One Who Stayed Behind in France, Hugo wrote,
She knows, doesn’t she? that it hasn’t been my fault.
If, these four years that have passed away so soon,
I haven’t gone and prayed at the foot of her tomb!
The anguish of being parted from your ancestry, the place where the bones of your family lie, and of having to give up your history, looms large too in this collection. Once exiled, the person must build a new life to survive. If returning home, then in one sense the exile will never return to the place they knew. Their old life has moved on and can never be the same. The separation has formed a chasm between the old and new lives. In this collection, the time-slip tale The Past, My Future by Loretta Livingstone explores this sense of dislocation, and is a lovely way to highlight societal differences between the past and the present.
The stories in this book span many worlds, from 11th-century Wales, to Iceland, to Greece, to the forests of Robin Hood and even the suburban house of an enemy alien in WWII. Each story is a little jewel of time and place, and so I recommend that you take time to savour each one. I’m sure you will find much to enjoy in this excellently written selection.
More On the Authors of EXILE, their Stories, and Connecting with Them
Annie Whitehead, J.G. Harlond, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Elizabeth Chadwick, Loretta Livingstone, Elizabeth St.John, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Marian L Thorpe, Amy Maroney, Cathie Dunn and Cryssa Bazos
With an introduction by Deborah Swift.
"Each [story] conjures up the times and characters excellently, and they are often glimpses into the authors' other works. If you, like me, were drawn to this by a favourite name you will finish it with several more, and a much longer To Be Read List." Reader's Review
Exile: a risky defiance, a perilous journey, a family’s tragic choice – or an individual’s final gamble to live. Exile: voluntary or enforced, a falling-out between friends, a lost first love, a prejudiced betrayal – or the only way to survive persecution? In this historical fiction anthology thirteen authors (they are not superstitious!) have written exclusive short stories on the theme of exile. Some are based on true history, others are speculative fiction. All mine the depths of human emotions: fear, hope, love, and the fortitude to survive. Join an inspiring Anglo-Saxon queen of Wales, a courageous Norwegian falconer, and a family fleeing back in time to escape the prospect of a ruthless future. Oppose the law with the legendary Doones of Exmoor, or defy the odds with two brave WWII exiles. Meet a Roman apprehensively planning exile to preserve the 'old ways', and a real Swedish prince forcibly expelled in heart-wrenching circumstances. Thrill to a story based on the legend of Robin Hood, sail with a queen of Cyprus determined to regain her rightful throne; escape religious persecution, discover the heart-rending truth behind the settlement of Massachusetts and experience the early years that would, eventually, lead to the founding of Normandy. Experience the stirring of first love, and as an exclusive treat special guest author, Elizabeth Chadwick, reveals a tale about the 12th-century’s heiress, Isabelle de Clare, and the Greatest Knight of all time – William Marshal. With an introduction by multi-award-winning author Deborah Swift, enjoy these tales of exile across the ages. Some are hopeful, some sad, some romantic, some tragic, but all explore the indomitable spirit of resolute, unforgettable characters.
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~This anthology is available on Kindle Unlimited~
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