London Calling, is a romantic and nostalgic novel about a resilient community of friends and neighbours in Clapham, South London in the second World War. The book forms part of the ongoing series of Lavender Road novels from the pen of Pembrokeshire based author Helen Carey who was inspired to write the series following a chance encounter with a neighbour who showed her the sites of the air-raid shelter on Clapham Common.
“Her wartime stories were fascinating,” recalls Oxfordshire born Helen to Andy Howells, “as we chatted, I thought how interesting it would be to write a series of books focussed on the people living through the war in one south London Street.” The series became Lavender Road of which London Calling is the fourth novel.
“London Calling is set in 1942/1943, right in the middle of the war,” says Helen, “The Nazis are occupying most of mainland Europe, but in North Africa both they and the Italians are in retreat. In London, the Blitz is over, but Londoners have already suffered three years of privations and danger.”
“Lavender Road is a perfectly ordinary London street, but in wartime ordinary people sometimes find themselves having to do extraordinary things, and now, just as the Allied leaders are beginning to think about an invasion of Italy, Nurse Molly Coogan, and Actress Jen Carter, find themselves facing up to their greatest challenge yet. “
Helen’s two lead characters don’t have the best of relationships and that stems from Helen’s interest in people and how they react differently to real life situations. “I think novelists have to be good psychologists to understand what makes people tick, so that the characters can react in believable, but different ways.” says Helen, “ My story lines come from real events, and from the characters themselves. I try to put them in situations which will cause them difficulties and challenge them.”
Although Helen’s books are primarily aimed at women, she says that the Lavender Road series has a male following too, “I think that’s because although they do obviously have some emotional content,” she says, “they are not over-schmaltzy, they are quite funny in places, and some of them have quite a strong thriller element too. I recently had an email from a footballer in America saying that On a Wing and a Prayer (Helen’s third Lavender Road novel) was the most exciting book he had ever read!”
Away from Lavender Road, Helen admits to finding her Pembrokeshire surroundings inspiring too. “We are lucky to live right underneath the magical Carn Ingli mountain,” she says, “I have, in fact, already written a novel set here in Pembrokeshire. I wrote it a while ago, it is bit of a thriller, called Slick Deals. Perhaps, in due course I’ll do a follow up to that.”
- London Calling by Helen Carey is available in paperback and published by Headline, priced £6.99.