It's interesting to look back and identify the various experiences in life that came together to inspire LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED, my new novel featuring psychologist and investigator, Maisie Dobbs. In the last newsletter, I wrote to you about those "Across The Miles" cards that came every Christmas from my aunt in Canada. I'd often wonder why someone who was family lived halfway across the world, so the notion of "over there" was probably the first spark, long before I ever thought I would be a writer. Here's another:
I was about twelve years old and attending "secondary school" in Britain. It was a girls' school and rather strict, especially where conforming to the school uniform was concerned. We wore grey skirts that had to brush the knee (you wouldn't have thought so, though, if you'd seen my friend Anne-Marie), white blouses topped with red cardigans, and red or grey socks with sturdy leather shoes. The mostly female teaching staff wore their own uniform—or so it seemed—tweed skirts, twinsets, scarves tied at the neck and sensible shoes. But there was one teacher who brightened our classrooms. She was Indian, and wore the most exquisite saris—light pastels of fine silk or lawn in summer, and in autumn and winter, heavier silk in burgundy, deep forest green, navy blue or shimmering dark orange. Some saris had delicately embroidered borders, others were embossed or embellished with beading. The inclement English weather never deterred her, and I never saw the hem of a sari soiled with rain or slush. She was as beautiful as she was elegant. We often marveled at a sari we had never seen before, and once, standing at her desk waiting for my work to be marked, I ran my fingers across the fabric of her sari, just to feel the cool softness in my hands.
One day as we walked into the classroom, there on her desk were two piles of folded silk—32 saris, one for each of us to wear throughout the lesson. Oh, it was lovely, just wonderful fun. We obviously kept those white blouses on, and the skirts provided a band to press the silk into after she had taught us how to use our fingers to work the fabric back and forth, pleating the silk before tucking into the waistband and draping the remainder around the body and across the shoulder. I felt like a princess in my sari of rich peach silk.
In the opening pages of LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED you will meet Usha Pramal, a woman so far from home. She is wearing a cool silk sari on a hot summer's day—a sari very much like the one given to me to wear so many years ago. But for Usha, in the opening pages of LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED, her journey that day ends in tragedy.
There's more to tell you in the weeks leading up to publication of LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED on March 26th*—in the meantime, feel free to forward this newsletter on to any friends who are also fans of Maisie Dobbs, or who simply might be interested in some of the "moments" that come together to create a story.
Until the next time,
LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED by Jacqueline Winspear, will be published in the US on March 26th* by Harper Collins Publishers. You can pre-order it here:
*Publication dates vary in different parts of the world.