This book began with a postcard bought in Dunwich, a tiny village on the Suffolk coast. Dunwich’s history is a haunting one: it was once a major port but is now a handful of cottages, the rest of the town having been eaten away by the sea; churches, houses, civic buildings, shops, all gone. The church depicted in the photograph (taken 1903) has now completely disappeared but there are stories of bones from the old graveyard dropping out of the eroding cliff and the churchbells still ringing under the sea. Those ghostly bells have haunted many writers, most recently Lucy Kirkwood in her compelling new play: The Children. But what intrigued me most about the postcard were the two women in the foreground who in the novel become Ruth Styles and Maud Waterford.
Footsteps tells the story of a modern woman, Helena Mayrick, and her Edwardian forbear, Ruth Styles who desires to break free of the confines of family relationships and social mores of the early twentieth century. The novel was partially inspired by the work of the photograph Horace. W. Nicholls, whose works ranged from society photographs of the so- called Edwardian summer, and his work as Official Home Front Photographer for the Ministry of Information. Ironically his own son was killed in action in 1917. His life reflects the glamour and tragedy of his era, and the sense of being on the cusp of the modern world that I have endeavoured to portray in the novel.
‘This well-shaped and lovingly-crafted novel of domestic drama and emotion offers satisfying rewards. The theme of Footsteps – that of the effects of misplaced, frequently repressed love and passion on succeeding generations of women – is put together with intelligence and feeling, a grasp of narrative pace and an empathy for the weather-buffeted Suffolk coast where it is set. The author’s touch is appealingly fresh and she succeeds in suggesting the complexity, waywardness and inexplicable patches that constitute life.’
‘Irreducibly delicate and tough-minded.’
‘This winning story of misplaced passion showcases the author’s budding historical sensibilities.’
”The theme of Footsteps – that of the effects of misplaced, frequently repressed love and passion on succeeding generations of women – is put together with intelligence and feeling.’