Clare Flynn

Literature & Fiction

Author Profile

Clare  Flynn

Clare Flynn writes historical fiction with compelling characters.and a strong sense of time and place. Her books often deal with characters who are displaced - forced out of their comfortable lives and familiar surroundings. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature. After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in Eastbourne where she writes full-time – and can look out of her window and see the sea. When not writing and reading, Clare loves to paint with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel - sometimes under the guise of research.

Books

The Pearl Of Penang

Literature & Fiction

Evie Fraser, paid companion to a crotchety spinster, seems destined for a lonely life. Then out of the blue, a marriage proposal arrives by post. She met the handsome Douglas Barrington just once – at his wedding – but never forgot him. Now widowed, plantation-owner Douglas offers her a new life on the lush, exotic island of Penang. How can Evie resist? But what are Barrington’s motives in marrying Evie when he barely knows her, and why is he so hostile and moody? Evie soon finds herself pitched against Douglas on the one hand and the shallow, often spiteful world of the expatriate British on the other. Has she made the biggest mistake of her life? Flynn’s tenth novel is the winner of the BookBrunch 2020 Selfies Prize. It explores the themes of love, marriage, the impact of war and the challenges of displacement – this time in a tropical paradise as the threat of the Japanese empire looms closer.

Book Bubbles from The Pearl Of Penang

Marriage to a virtual stranger

Evie is caught in a trap from which she can envisage no escape. Left penniless after her financier father commits suicide to avoid arrest for financial misconduct, she is working as a paid companion to a cranky old woman. Out of the blue she receives a marriage proposal in the mail. The suitor is a handsome older man, a widower, whom Evie has met only once – years earlier when he danced with her at his wedding. Since then she has nursed a crush. But Douglas Barrington is now a rubber planter in faraway Malaya. Evie can't resist. This scene marks their first meeting three days after her arrival in Penang – Doug didn't even turn up to meet her ship.

Getting acclimatised

My main character, Evie, arrives in Penang from England, having never ventured further than the South of France. Living in a tropical climate after a life in southern England is a big shock to the system. Evie is drawn to the exoticism of the island but takes time to adjust. I visited Penang myself earlier this year – so I know just how she feels.Sometimes there is no respite from the heat and humidity. Yet for Evie she adjusts relatively quickly to her new surroundings. Adapting to the life of an ex-pat wife takes quite a bit longer. And most of all coping with the quixotic mood changes of the husband she married after a proposal by letter.

The Alien Corn: from the author of The Chalky Sea

Literature & Fiction

They faced up to the challenges of war – but can they deal with the troubles of peace? Canadian, Jim Armstrong, married in haste during the second world war, after a one-night stand. When his wife and their small son join him in Canada it’s four years since they’ve seen each other. War bride, Joan discovers Jim has no intention of the family returning to England. She struggles to adapt to life on a remote farm in Ontario, far from her family and cold-shouldered by Jim’s mother. Haunted by his wartime experiences in Italy, Iingering feelings for a former lover, and the demands of the farm, Jim begins to doubt his love for Joan. From the rolling farmland of Ontario to the ravaged landscapes of war-torn Italy, this sweeping love story is the sequel to The Chalky Sea.

Book Bubbles from The Alien Corn: from the author of The Chalky Sea

Home from years at war

My character, Jim Armstrong, is typical of many young Canadian men who volunteered to fight overseas in the Second world War. In this the opening of the novel, Jim has returned unannounced to the family farm after years in Europe – waiting in frustration in the UK and then fighting in the hard battle to take Italy from the Germans. The scene tries to convey his feelings and sensations on seeing his home again. For Jim, the homecoming is particularly poignant as it will not be shared by his brother who was killed in the fatal assault on Dieppe.

The Chalky Sea

Literature & Fiction

Two troubled people in a turbulent world In July 1940, Gwen Collingwood drops her husband at the railway station, knowing she may never see him again. Two days later, her humdrum world is torn apart when her sleepy English seaside town is subjected to the first of many heavy bombing attacks. In Ontario, Canada, Jim Armstrong is uncertain whether to volunteer for the army. When he uncovers the secret his fiance has been keeping from him his decision is clear. A few weeks later he is on a ship bound for England. Gwen is forced to confront the truth about her past and her own feelings for her husband. Jim battles with a bewildering and hostile world far removed from the cozy life of his Canadian farm. War brings horror and loss to each of them - can it also bring change and salvation?

Book Bubbles from The Chalky Sea

The Gamekeeper's Wife

Literature & Fiction

A gripping story of love, duty, sacrifice and determination in the aftermath of the First World War. Martha Walters is the widow of an abusive man. Martha has nothing and is about to lose her home. Christopher Shipley is the reluctant heir to a substantial family fortune. He has more money than he needs or wants, and responsibilities he cannot shirk. They were never meant to fall in love, but sometimes the wrong person is the right one. Then a terrible secret is revealed, which could force them apart. From an English country house to the jungles of Borneo, The Gamekeeper’s Wife, is sure to keep you up reading all night.

Book Bubbles from The Gamekeeper's Wife

The inspiration of location

I spent four days staying in a place called Keeper's Cottage on a country estate in Bedfordshire. As soon as I walked through the door I knew I had to set a book here. That night I dreamed about Christopher (Kit) Shipley and Martha Walters. I have often been inspired by a location. It's a visceral thing. I just know there's a story and I have to tell it. Keeper's Cottage was the perfect location for filming Lady Chatterley's Lover and my start point was Lady C in reverse. My story features the reluctant heir to a country estate who has lost a leg in the Great War and the widow of his former batman who he is expected to evict from her home.

Kurinji Flowers

Literature & Fiction

Hasty marriage to a man she barely knew. Exile to India - a country she didn't know at all An emotional love story set in the last days of colonial India Set against the turbulent backdrop of South India in the dying days of British colonial rule, this heartbreaking yet joyful novel shows us the fascinating world of pre Independence India through the eyes of Ginny Dunbar, the young wife of a tea planter. Ginny has a damaged past she is desperate to keep secret and is caught between a clash of cultures. The exoticism and vibrancy of native India both attracts and repels her and she doesn't fit into the shallow world of the British expatriates whose lives revolve around the Club. Isolated in a lonely marriage to man she barely knows, Ginny struggles to find her place in an alien world. Kurinji Flowers is a poignant and moving story of Love, loss, betrayal and redemption. If you like the drama of human relationships you will find this an absorbing and engaging read.

Book Bubbles from Kurinji Flowers

Wild Honey

When I was staying in India to research and finish writing this book, I came upon hives of wild honey, high in the trees. It was my first experience of these tree hives – hanging in shapes not dissimilar from clumps of mistletoe - or rook's nests. The indigenous tribes who hunt the wild Indian homey must be brave – until they build an immunity to all the toxins from repeated stinging. Rather them than me!

First sights of South India

After writing the first draft of Kurinji Flowers I returned to India alone to stay on a tea plantation. I hired a driver to take to me from Cochin to my destination, about 20km from Munnar. My flight had arrived in the early hours of the morning and it was still dark when we set off. As we drove up into the hills I witnessed the dawn and sat, jet-lagged and tired in the back of the car, scribbling notes about what I was seeing through the windows.

A Crushing Blow

Most of us get crushed by negative feedback at some point in our lives. Poor old Ginny gets a pretty devastating critique from F Ernest Jackson, topped off with a nice piece of what we would see now as misogynism, but was probably realism at the time – and pretty typical! I may have been unfair putting these words in Mr Jackson's mouth - he was a real person - a Fellow of the Royal Academy and the Principal of the Byam Shaw School of Art - but he was a Yorkshireman and they're not renowned for mincing their words!

The reluctant king

In 1936, King Edward VIII, in his brief tenure before abdicating, was completely uninterested in hosting the annual coming out presentations of the young debutantes. He frustrated many proud mothers and their eager daughters by shifting the proceedings to the afternoons – and to the gardens of Buckingham Palace. His motivation was doubtless to allow himself a rapid escape, but the British weather conspired to make the Courts soggy and dispiriting. When George VI and Queen Elizabeth took over, the Courts went back to evenings much to the relief of all concerned.

A Greater World

Literature & Fiction

She crossed the world to marry a stranger but fell in love with someone else When Elizabeth Morton’s father wants her to travel to the other side of the world to marry a stranger, she thinks he’s gone mad. This is 1920 and a woman has rights - she's not going to be subject to an arranged marriage. But she's reckoned without the brother-in-law she's always despised, who shatters her comfortable world, leaving her no choice but to sail to Australia. When Michael Winterbourne, a lead miner wakes up with a hangover after his engagement celebrations, he has no idea he is about to cause a terrible tragedy that will change his life and destroy his family. When Michael and Elizabeth meet on the SS Historic, bound for Sydney, they are reluctant emigrants from England. They hope their troubles are over, but they're only just beginning. A Greater World is a historical romance set in the early 1920s. The story moves from the dales of Cumberland and the docks of Liverpool to Sydney and the beautiful Blue Mountains.

Book Bubbles from A Greater World

The Digger Prince

Fate often has a hand in foiling the best laid plans, but it's not often you can blame your scuppered dreams on a member of the royal family. It is 1920 and Elizabeth is new to Sydney and on her way - late - to meet the man she has fallen in love with. She has reckoned without Edward Prince of Wales the future abdicating King Edward VIII, who was immensely popular and drew record crowds on his state visit to Australia. The prince gained the nickname The Digger Prince when his royal train overturned while travelling through Western Australia - he showed a lot of sang froid when he emerged from the train wreck with a bundle of papers in one hand and a silver cocktail shaker in the other

Nothing would be the same again

WW1 was the dividing line between worlds. Not only the consequences of the massive loss of life but the impact of that loss on the world the survivors returned to. For many, like Michael, it was their first experience of life not only outside their home country, but outside their own town or village. Michael was a part of the lead mining industry - lead had been mined in those hills and dales since the Romans were in Britain, but Michael was one of the last generation to work extracting lead as much cheaper foreign sources were identified. The conditions in the mines were unpleasant, claustrophobic and unhealthy and can hardly have been a welcome return for men who had served in the trenches.

Sailing Down Under

Michael and Elizabeth sail from Liverpool to Sydney on a fictional ship the SS Historic. I chose the name so it would fit with the other ships on the White Star line with their IC endings – the most famous of which was the Titanic, but closely based the Historic on a real ship, the Ceramic. The Ceramic was unusual in that it was a single class vessel with no segregation of passengers. This enabled Michael and Elizabeth to meet – something that would never have happened normally given their different backgrounds. The Ceramic met an unhappy fate when torpedoed in mid Atlantic by a U-boat in December 1942. The ship sank and the passengers, a mix of service personnel, nurses and civilians, evacuated into lifeboats but a heavy storm blew up and only one man survived, taken prisoner by the submarine that sank them.

The Green Ribbons

Literature & Fiction

How far would she go to save her marriage? How far would he go to keep a promise? 1900. Eighteen-year old Hephzibah Wildman's world is turned upside down when she loses her parents in a tragic accident. Homeless and destitute, she must leave the security of the Oxford college where her stepfather was Dean, to earn her living as a governess at Ingleton Hall. Befriending Merritt Nightingale, the local parson and drawn to the handsome Thomas Egdon, she starts to build a new life for herself. When Hephzibah attracts the unwanted advances of her employer, the country squire Sir Richard Egdon, she makes the first of two desperate decisions that will change not only her own life but the lives of those around her.

Book Bubbles from The Green Ribbons

Public works and vanity

If it hadn't been for the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 the village of Nettlestock would never have got its library. The motivation for many Victorian benefactors was often the chance of a bit of self aggrandizement rather than doing good.

Objects connect to the past

The theft of the green ribbons which Hephzibah's mother had gifted her shortly before her death, reinforce how uncomfortable and out of place Hephzibah feels at Ingleton Hall. The ribbons are a link to the past that she has lost for ever but their theft by her love rival ruins them for Hephzibah. Even when they are eventually restored to her she cannot let them go. They are a reminder of what she has lost and how she has been humiliated. She will never wear them but she feels unable to throw them away.

A life changes in a moment

Hephzibah has it all - until a runaway tram kills her parents and leaves her penniless and homeless. I'm fascinated by the way fortunes can change in completely unexpected ways in just a moment. A young woman ill-prepared for the world outside an Oxford college is thrust into a new life with unexpected challenges and without the guidance and support of her loving family.

Letters from a Patchwork Quilt

Literature & Fiction

"A story of love, loss and tragedy; a heartbreaking and moving tale." Readers’ Favorite. From the author of A Greater World and Kurinji Flowers In 1875 a young man, Jack Brennan, from a large and impoverished Catholic family, refuses to be pushed into the priesthood and runs away to become a teacher. Jack falls in love with Eliza Hewlett, but his dreams and plans are thwarted when his landlord's daughter, Mary Ellen MacBride, falsely accuses him of fathering the child she is expecting. Rather than be forced to marry his accuser, Jack decides to run away to America with Eliza. Just as they are about to sail Jack is arrested and dragged from the ship, leaving Eliza alone en route to New York with just a few shillings in her pocket. ˃˃˃ 5 Star rated by Readers' Favorite "The story is different, original and touching. It's interesting to read how the lives of Jack and Eliza unfold in different countries. The plot is powerful, the characters are well sketched, memorable, and their personalities will remain in the minds of readers even after they finish the story. It's a story of love, loss and tragedy; a heartbreaking and moving tale where readers will wish to see Jack and Eliza reunited and happy together. The narration is descriptive; it also speaks about the society that existed during that age and pulls readers into the story. It's well written and the story is not predictable, making it a engaging read."

Book Bubbles from Letters from a Patchwork Quilt

The Battle of the Bottle

Letters from a Patchwork Quilt is partly set in Middlesbrough during the 1880s. In the mid 19th century the town was effectively akin to a wild west town, its explosive industrial growth attracting thousands of workers so that it became a place "wherein are gathered together the vilest of the vile” according to the then local newspaper. Drinking dens grew up beside the docks to serve the workers in the iron foundries. Alongside them brothels also did a roaring trade. By the time of Letters from a Patchwork Quilt, 1880, when my main character, Jack Brennan became the landlord of the Tudor Crown, the Temperance movement was having a major impact in the town. The numerous drinking establishments still provided a huge draw to the working men of the iron foundries, but now the growing ranks of the Temperance Society sought to make access to drink harder.

Alcohol and religion

The Catholic church is a fundamental part of the Brennan family identity. Jack's refusal to conform to religious expectations - first by his unwillingness to become a priest and then by refusing to go to Mass - provokes a violent outburst by his father and earns Jack a terrible beating. This happens when Bill Brennan is drunk – behaviour that ironically he does not believe worthy of censure. Alcohol and religion are two key tropes in Letters from a Patchwork Quilt and Jack is haunted by both of them.

Victorian school lessons

In order to gain an insight into a typical Victorian classroom I took myself along to The Ragged School at Mile End in London and sat in on a recreation of a lesson. I was one of only two or three adults, surrounded by enthusiastic children, Most of whom had raided the dressing-up box first. We were given slates to write on and had to do our sums and copy out copperplate letters from the blackboard. Fortunately none of us was made to wear the dunce's hat and the teacher chose to spare the rod to our collective relief!

A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories: A Collection of Short Stories

Literature & Fiction

A Tapestry of True Tales from Then and Now This collection of nine short stories comes from award-winning historical fiction author Clare Flynn. There are five historical tales – four based on stories from her own family history and one a tragic tale from eighteenth century Sussex. Clare has also branched out into contemporary fiction with four intriguing stories – modern morality tales, set in England, Paris, the USA and an island in the Indian Ocean. Beautifully crafted, vividly brought to life on the page these quirky stories give an insight into human nature at its best – and its worst.

Book Bubbles from A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories: A Collection of Short Stories

Family quarrels - an extract from 'The Proposal'

The scene here is a Liverpool home in 1934. Two sisters – one upset after a row with her father the night before, and the other determined to find out what it was all about. The quarrel is the prelude to a family tragedy – although, ironically, Rita forgets the argument as soon as she gets to work. The story is about how things can get blown up when they actually matter little in the greater scheme of things. By the end of that day, Rita will have much more to be upset about.

The Chalky Sea

Literature & Fiction

Two troubled people in a turbulent world. In July 1940, Gwen Collingwood drops her husband at the railway station, knowing she may never see him again. Two days later her humdrum world is torn apart when her sleepy English seaside town is subjected to the first of many heavy bombing attacks. In Ontario, Canada, Jim Armstrong is uncertain whether to volunteer for the army. When he uncovers the secret his fiancée has been keeping from him his decision is clear. A few weeks later he is on a ship bound for England. Gwen is forced to confront the truth about her past and her own feelings for her husband. Jim battles with a bewildering and hostile world far removed from the cosy life of his Canadian farm. War brings horror and loss to each of them – can it also bring change and salvation?

Book Bubbles from The Chalky Sea

The Tedium of War

Canada did not have conscription in WW2 and their largely volunteer army must have arrived in Britain with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. This quickly turned to frustration and boredom as the Canadians were kept in reserve month after month as the war progressed without them. To make matters worse, many of them were stationed in the British army's military town, Aldershot in Hampshire. The garrison was built to provide a permanent home for the British army during the Crimean War. The small town had little to offer the visiting Canadian soldiers, who were left to kick their heels and build up their physical fitness in readiness for eventual deployment.

War at the seaside

Nowadays people think of Eastbourne on the English Sussex coast as a quiet seaside down with an elderly population. It is a little known fact that the town was in the frontline for most of the Second World War. The first bombs fell on July 7th 1940 - a month before the London Blitz got going – but even after Hitler called off the invasion of Britain the town continued to be pounded regularly until March 1944.

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