“A book of mine with the rapturous title, Love in the Sun was published in this country in August of the fateful year 1939, three months before the start of Hitler’s war.
It was the story, based closely on fact, of how my wife and I, then very poor, found an empty and derelict army hut on a lonely creek near Fowey in Cornwall, rented it for three shillings a week, and made it into a home, making our own furniture, chiefly from driftwood and ships’ dunnage, growing or catching most of our food …”
I was both confused and entranced by those opening lines. Leo Walmsley’s novel, Love in the Sun, was everything that he says, and quite wonderful, but what was this book. It read like fact, and yet it stood next to Love in the Sun on the Cornish Fiction shelf in the library.
It was fiction, I discovered as I was propelled forward by Leo Walmsley, but clearly fiction that was just a whisper away from fact, and written in a very different world.
Love in the Sun ended with the birth of a child and the publication of a book. Since then, I learned the couple had prospered, moved back closer to their roots in the north, and their family had grown. But there were dark shadows. The war, of course and the couple’s relationship deteriorated. Different attitudes to life, to how to bring up their children took their toll.
It was an utterly real story, one that must have been told so many times, but I was drawn in by the emotional honesty and the simple clarity of the storytelling.
Eventually she took their children and left him.
He retreated to Cornwall, to the army hut by the river where the couple had been so happy. To lick his wounds. To make a holiday home for his children. And maybe, just maybe, to win his wife back when she brought the children down.
The restoration of that home echoes the first book beautifully.
When the children come they love it.
So many lovely small details bring a simple story to life, and real emotional honesty makes it sing.
The children grow up, of course, and so over the years summer holidays in Cornwall and their father’s role, change.
But then maybe a different future calls ….
At the beginning of Paradise Creek I was disappointed that the idyll of Love in the Sun had ended. But I was quickly caught up, emotionally involved, as the story of that end unfolded and I was taken on a very different journey.
The storyteller was flawed, but I saw into his heart and I recognised a real, fallible human being.
Everything rang true. And as I read on I realised how cleverly the structure of this book echoed its predecessor.
It works as a companion piece, and it stands up on its own. Because it is a wonderful piece of storytelling: emotionally involving, simple and utterly believable.
This is a book that will remain in my heart.