Today I’m excited to feature best selling author Elizabeth Buchan. I’ve followed Elizabeth’s career for more years than she’d appreciate me mentioning after reading her award winning book Consider the Lily. Her latest book is Two Women in Rome and the paperback edition will be published on 19th May.
Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books after graduating from the University of Kent with a double degree in English and History. She moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full-time. Her novels include the award-winning Consider the Lily and the international bestseller, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, which was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. Other novels include I Can’t Begin to Tell You, a story of SOE agents and resistance in wartime Denmark, and The New Mrs Clifton and The Museum of Broken Promises. Her latest, Two Women in Rome, was published in June 2021.
Elizabeth’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She has reviewed for The Times, the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She has been a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and co-founder of the Clapham Book Festival.
Over to Elizabeth:
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Les Barricades Mystérieuses by Couperin. It is such a magic piece and I have loved it because it is so melodic and suggestive. Initially, I thought it was about the afterlife until I discovered that Couperin was writing about the women of Versailles and their eyelashes. But it is still beautiful and haunting.
Non Nobis Domine from Kenneth Branagh’s film of Henry V. The futility of battle, brotherhood, kingship, Shakespeare: a potent combination
Barcelona sung by Monseratt Caballé and Freddie Mercury. It stirs up the atavistic response.
- For the purists
2. For the spectacle
La Mer sung by Charles Trenet. The French chanson sung to perfection, evoking sun, sea and the joy of being in France
Bruch’s Violin Concerto. A sublime piece of music for a sublime instrument
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Espresso coffee. Please don’t talk to me until I’ve had my first cup in the morning.
Red wine, preferably claret. I know, I know. Wine is bad for you.
Travel in Europe. I love Italy and France with a passion and miss it badly.
The book by my bed. This could be fiction or non-fiction and I get very jumpy if I don’t have at least two on the go. Often four or five.
My air pods. My son gave these to me and I discovered podcasts. It changed and enlarged my world.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
Remember when you thought you were fat? You weren’t.
When you have children you will be on sentry duty for the rest of your life.
Other people are almost certainly feeling as unsuccessful as you do.
Listen, and listen well, with the inner ear. The real dialogue lies behind the words.
No one ever said writing novels was easy.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
The first time I got on a horse, I fell off the other side and broke my arm.
In the sixth form, I won a bottle of gin on the school tombola. My friend and I sat down to sample it. I have never touched it since.
After The Museum of Broken Promises was published in Italy, the owner of a small museum in Italy made contact and asked if he could set up a Museum of Broken Promises in one of the museum’s empty rooms. I will be sending a donation.
As a child in Nigeria, I climbed a mango tree and encountered a green mamba.
When Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was made into a CBS Primetime show in the US, it was watched by 13 million.
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
Write as truthful and as gripping a novel as I can manage.
Walk from Sienna to Rome.
Keep alive to see the grandchildren well on their way into life (I had breast cancer a couple of years ago so my odds could be shortened).
Learn a language.
Take up cold swimming (this might not happen).
Many thanks for joining me today Elizabeth, it really was a pleasure for me. I loved your music choices as two pieces in particular brought back memories for me. I sang Non Nobis Domine (slightly different tune) in the school choir at a schools choir competition and I can still remember the words/tune. Barcelona, as well as being a fabulous piece of music, reminds of listening to it, in Barcelona by the magic fountain (hence the above video). Hopefully when travel is less problematic than it is now, we can both resume our European travel at least. Your horse story reminds of why I’ve never entertained the idea of horse riding (I’m a wimp!) I love the idea of a real Museum of Broken Promises, all those dreams and stories. I hope that your walk from Sienna to Rome comes to fruition, it would be wonderful, there are also several spots en route that might permit a cold dip in the Tiber to tick off some cold swimming. As a fellow breast cancer thriver, here’s hoping our odds are good, I need the time to finally learn a language too – Spanish has eluded me for several years.
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
Two Women in Rome
In the Eternal City, no secret stays hidden forever…
Lottie Archer arrives in Rome excited to begin her new job as an archivist. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence.
Nina seems to have led a rewarding and useful life, restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978?
In exploring Nina’s past, Lottie unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy. And as she edges closer to understanding Nina, she begins to confront the losses in her own life.
The Museum of Broken Promises
Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated – a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby’s shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.
Prague, 1985. Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until, that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences.
It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.
The New Mrs Clifton
‘Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’
At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London.
On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin.
For his two sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. As the three women wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus, they begin to ask themselves:
How far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England?
I Can’t Begin to Tell You
When the Nazis invade Denmark, British-born Kay Eberstern is sickened when Bror – her husband of twenty-five years – collaborates with the enemy to save his family home.
Lured by British Intelligence into a covert world of resistance, her life in the hands of London’s code breakers, Kay’s betrayal of her husband is complete as she risks her home and children to protect an SOE agent who won’t even tell her his name.
As her family – especially her headstrong daughter – is drawn further into danger, Kay is faced with a wrenching moral dilemma.
Who will be sacrificed next for the cause?
Can she and Bror ever find their way back to one another?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled.
But for Lara, mother to Maudie and stepmother to Jasmine and Eve, realising this ambition has not been easy.
With an ex-husband embarking on a new marriage, and the surprising and late blooming developments in her own love life to contend with, Lara has enough to worry about – especially with Eve’s upcoming wedding.
When she begins to fear that Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, and Maudie reveals something that shocks the entire family, Lara faces the ultimate dilemma.
Does she step in and risk the wrath of her daughters?
Or does she stand by and watch them both make what she fears will be the biggest mistakes of their lives?
Annie and Tom seem to have everything – a lovely home, rewarding jobs and three healthy grown-up children.
But beneath the surface lies a secret guilt which ensures that whilst they live under the same roof, they sleep in separate beds. Then Tom comes home one evening and drops a bombshell that threatens to destroy everything they have left.
If Tom and Annie are to weather this storm together they must first face the past that lies between them. Yet will doing so only push them further apart?
The Second Wife
What happens when the mistress gets her man?
Against the odds, that’s what happened to Minty. She stole her best friend Rose’s husband Nathan and made him her own.
But now that she’s got what she wanted – marriage, kids, a family home – she’s discovering a few things she didn’t bargain on: the cold shoulder from Nathan’s other family, her husband’s middle age and growing distance . . .
And accepting that first wives don’t just go away.
What’s more, age brings one or two other problems for Minty.
Problems that will lead her back to the one person she really doesn’t want to face . . .
That Certain Age
Barbara and Siena – two women living fifty years apart.
Both constrained by choice; one has too little and one has too much.
Siena, a 21st century woman, has so far managed to avoid the tick of the biological clock. Without children she can control her own wonderful, ordered life. Only thing is, her husband Charlie longs for a baby . . .
In 1959, Barbara has been married to Ryder, an airline pilot, for twenty-four years. Her life happily revolves around her house and family. But when she meets the young and brilliant Alexander, he shows her that she has a mind and a life of her own . . .
The intimate, inner lives of two women are intertwined as they struggle to find resolution – between the families they love and their own desires.
The Good Wife
Fanny Savage was once dutiful, clever, vulnerable and dreamy.
Now married to Will, a successful politician with big ambitions, her life is a whirlwind of public engagements and loyalty to the party, a position that requires her to look good and remain silent.
But she’s no fool. She’s well aware that the world outside her home is one that seethes with despair, danger and division. And she’s beginning to understand how fragile happiness can be.
Is she coping with the transition from eager bride to politician’s wife?
Has she been the Good Wife?
Does being good always mean being truthful?
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman
Rose Lloyd was the last to suspect that Nathan, her husband of over twenty years, was having an affair, and that he was planning to leave her.
But the greatest shock was yet to come: his mistress was Rose’s colleague and friend, Minty.
Left alone in their once-happy family home, where she and Nathan had brought up their children, Rose started thinking – about the man she’d married, and how well she really knew him. About the carefree yet studious girl she had been before she met him.
Twenty years ago she had to make the choice between two very different lives.
Could she now recapture what she nearly chose back then, a life where she put herself first?
Secrets of the Heart
Agnes Campion is 30 when she inherits Flagge House from her uncle.
Whilst struggling with its upkeep, Agnes is also busy looking after her elderly aunts, juggling her work, and nursing a bruised heart. So she certainly doesn’t bank on falling for handsome property developer Julian, whose job is everything she despises, and who has a mistress of his own.
Nor does Agnes imagine that stoical Andrew, whose organic farm is being wrenched away from him by a planning application, will fall for her too.
Slowly, surely, a love quartet is developing . . .
But relationships are messy things, and only two people can find happiness at the end of it all.
Against Her Nature
Love, money and children… Life is a risk, however much we try to protect ourselves…
Unlike the Frants living their quiet ordered lives in the village of Appleford, Tess and Becky are of the generation that believes it can have everything. Highflyers in the high-octane world of London’s high-finance, they move through the opportunists, the short-termists, the sharks, the bullies and the very, very rich to face many choices, not least the one presented by biology: children.
As the different generations balance the challenges life throws at them, a tender and unexpected love story emerges alongside a journey to maturity in this bold and beautiful novel.
Over twenty years of marriage to Max, Prue has remained a busy, contented mother and stepmother. Now, Prue’s stepdaughter, Violet, has returned with her new husband from New York and, suddenly, Prue is precipitated into a secret life.
As she moves between a sleepy village in Hampshire and buzzing London, Prue finds herself crossing the boundary between innocence and knowledge, exploring the line between the gluttony and surrender of desire and facing the stark realities that result.
Because while marriage can be a battleground, extraordinary bargains and accommodations are often struck between people who love one another.
Consider the Lily
When a choice must be made between love and duty, solace comes in unexpected forms…
Summer, 1929. The Hinton Dysart estate is dying from lack of money, and Kit Dysart, the heir, sees no way out. Then, at his sister’s wedding, he meets the vibrant Daisy Chudleigh and her cousin, the heiress Matty Verrall. In love with Daisy but troubled by his family’s decline, Kit chooses to marry Matty, though neither Kit nor Daisy is able to forget the other.
When Matty, growing increasingly unhappy in her troubled, empty marriage, decides to re-create the estate’s garden, she discovers solace and a gift of which she never dreamt.
A haunting, passionate story played out between three people, Consider the Lily is also a poignant and beautiful novel of England between the wars that propels the reader into its own rich and nostalgic world.
Light of the Moon
I thought loving someone was simple. It isn’t. Glorious, yes. Painful, yes. Unforgettable, yes. Simple, no. It took me the war to find out…
Evelyn St. John has been parachuted into France to link up with the Resistance and to work undercover.
Paul von Hoch’s brief, as a member of the German Intelligence, is to track down enemy spies.
When Evelyn and Paul meet and fall in love, their feelings for one another are fierce, but can never be uncomplicated.
And when the battle lines shift, and patriotism gives way to deeper truths, they will both face the gravest of challenges.
Daughters of the Storm
Paris, 1789. As the shadow of the guillotine falls over a nation at war with itself, three very different women find themselves caught up in the storm of revolution…
In France under the last Bourbon king, the extravagance grows more outrageous and the unrest of the poor more dangerous. Into this ferment are swept the innocent English Sophie Luttrell, visiting France for the first time; the French aristocrat Héloise de Guinot, who hates the man her parents have arranged for her to marry; and Marie-Victoire, the loyal maid who finds herself immersed in revolutionary politics.
They are the daughters of the storm which is sweeping France – and over the world. Three women whose lives will be forever marked by this turning point in history and whose passionate struggle for love, liberty – and for life – will have unexpected consequences.
Loved The Museum of Broken Promises 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
I enjoyed that one too
LikeLiked by 1 person
Elizabeth Buchan is a new author to me. Funny, I was looking at The Museum of Broken Promises just this morning, but it was not available in ebook here. I will try a different one if I can find one that appeals to me.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s a shame it’s not an option for you Carla, hope you can find an alternative.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Oh my gosh! I couldn’t believe that was Freddie Mercury. He was SOOO talented! Great post, as always, Jill.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Virginia, glad you enjoyed it, and Freddie!