Winspear - who is also the author of the Maisie Dobbs series of mysteries set in 1920s and 30s England - is clearly quite popular here in DC. The room was packed when I arrived half an hour before the talk started and bookstore staff were working to wedge even more chairs into the reading space. I ended up standing but it was well worth the effort to hear Winspear talk about the long-ago inspiration for her first stand-alone novel:
- The original inspiration occurred decades ago when Winspear was in her mid-20s and working at an academic publisher. For fun on the weekends, she helped a friend run a jewelry and antique table on Portobello Road in London. While looking for antiques to sell, she discovered an old book.
- Titled "The Women's Book," it was a kind of all-purpose handbook for the modern woman of the early 20th century, containing chapters on everything from how to treat servants, raise children, furnish a home and seat a dinner party. It also contained chapters on suffragettes and how a woman could prepare for a career in freelance writing or teaching. Winspear opened to the title page and discovered an inscription - the book was given to a young bride who got married in June 1914 - one month before the beginning of the Great War.
- For years, Winspear wondered what happened to that bride and what it was like to begin married life when the world was about to change so dramatically. Did her husband enlist? Was he conscripted? Did he come back home at war's end?
- Winspear braided these question together with ideas about how the soldiers on the front stayed in touch with home - through care packages of food and letters. All through Lies, soldiers escape the horrors of war by remembering their women back home and the food they cook that calls to mind home and warmth and safety.
As someone who loves finding inscriptions in old books, it was wonderful to hear about the origins of the novel. You can tell that that inscription stayed with Winspear and grew powerfully in her imagination.
Of course, Winspear is also the author of the popular Maisie Dobbs books and she had some updates on that front:
- The next Maisie Dobbs book will come out next spring and she says there are at least 2-3 books remaining in the series.
- Winspear mentioned in passing that she had spoken to Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece Theatre - a lady in the crowd immediately jumped on this, asking if that meant that the Maisie Dobbs series is being made into a mini-series. Winspear laughed and said no while also noting that Masterpiece Theatre isn't "the only game in town" and that other British production companies are around to produce TV shows of a similar vein.
- Sadly, Winspear said that there would be no follow-ups for the characters in Lies. But she does have another stand-alone novel on the "back-burner."
Politics and Prose films their events - it usually takes about a week for the video to go up on their multimedia archive. If you'd like to watch the Winspear event, you should be able to view it by Monday, July 14th.