Publication: 21st September 2021 – Lake Union Publishing
In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?
Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home―and Josie loves it.
Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling―with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.
It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?
Josie’s Journal – Wednesday 1st January 1941
I love my new journal. Papa told me it’s for me to write my life story in. He knows I want to be a writer, and he says it’s also good to write things down because then you don’t have to carry them around in your head all the time and that it might help me not to have so many bad dreams. It’s my best Christmas present. This year we got dresses made of silk because the big trunk with all our good clothes went missing somewhere in Marseille, or maybe on the way to Algeria. Anyway, it wasn’t there when we got off the boat in Oran. Maman says we’ll need something to wear when we go out now that we have a proper home again because the one thing Casablanca does have is a social life. The hotels and bars are full of people, some who live and work here and many who are just passing through like us. There are even tea dances at the Hotel Excelsior on Saturday afternoons, so those might cheer Annette up a bit. Even though my dress is nice and I know it must have cost a lot, it was a bit of a boring present. My new notebook and the little basket of sugared almonds were better.
I’m going to go to sleep now. We stayed up late last night to celebrate the arrival of the new year. I wore my new dress and I was allowed a glass of champagne. It didn’t taste as nice as lemonade really, but everyone was making a big fuss about it so I pretended to enjoy it. It’s the start of our new life too. I’m sad to have left France, but excited to be going to America to meet my cousins there. Maybe when the war is over we will go back to Paris and I’ll see my friends again. I suppose many of them will have left too. I hope they are alright and have somewhere safe to go like us. I’m sending them good wishes now. I hope I’ll sleep well tonight now that I’ve started writing things down in my journal.
Fiona spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.
She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of the Second Word War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.
An acclaimed Number 1 bestselling author, Fiona Valpy’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide.