Blog, Memories and Memoirs

Searching for History in England

Alfriston path

Alfriston path

I just returned from my research trip in England and have been musing over history in all its forms. I realize all over again that I’m fascinated with history. Those who know me would laugh at that comment, as my choice of profession–therapist–is about personal history as is memoir writing. My books Becoming Whole and Don’t Call Me Mother are about personal history and its impact on the present. And now my novel Secret Music takes place in another time and place–the 1930’s and 40’s, before and during World War II. But the main characters live in the seventies, and each of them has to cope with how that history has affected them and haunts them daily.

  • Fleet Street & St. Paul’s
  • Fleet Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Guns over the Channel
  • Gun embattlements at fort in Newhaven overlooking the English Channel

I had a couple of goals for my trip: to find out what happened to the adult Jewish refugees–I knew that many were interned on the Isle of Man, but was not sure of the circumstances. And I needed to find a village for my luthier character, a violin maker, to live in after the war. What a hard job I had!:)

London was wildly full of people, and not all of them were tourists either. I stayed in the Bloomsbury area near where Virginia Woolf lived–another fun research aspect for my trip–and tramped the streets. Day and night they were crowded with people. I experienced the enormous crush of the population of London everywhere I went. And when I left the excitement for the country, I enjoyed the beauty and silence of the small towns and villages.

The Imperial War Museum is always inspiring as a place that holds significant history and the library there held the answer to my Isle of Man questions. You’ll have to read the book to find out more.

I found a village for my luthier too–Alfriston, about 8 miles from the town of Lewes, the County town of Sussex, meaning the largest town in the area and a county seat.

St. Andrews church in Alfriston

St. Andrews church in Alfriston

St. Andrews church in Alfriston

Attached are some pictures of Alfriston you might enjoy. It is a quintessential English village beleagered by too many tourists in the summer but on this sunny Sunday, it seemed classic and eternal. English history is celebrated everywhere–every square foot of ground has a story. Books by the cash register are sold about the war in major bookstores–so much connection to history everywhere.

I’ll write more about this later, but wanted to share my thoughts about the presence of history for all of us, both personal and societal.

And for the writers out there, the way I found out the important details for my book was to read memoirs–the very personal story of how larger events impacted each person’s life.

Keep writing, and if you need to research your book, enjoy!