Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton is published in paperback this week.
I read it in January this year and it has stayed with me ever since then. Blackberry and Wild Rose remains to be one of my very favourite reads this year. A rich description with a hint of darkness; complicated and complex characters; unpredictable plot twists. All of these have made this book an incredible debut novel for me. You can read my full review here.
To celebrate the paperback publication, I have a Q&A with Sonia for you. Hope you enjoy and make sure you check out Blackberry and Wild Rose!
WHEN ESTHER THOREL, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.
INSIDE THE THORELS’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.
IT IS SILK that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.
THE PRICE OF a piece of silk may prove more than either is able to pay.
1. Blackberry and Wild Rose has remained to be one of my very favourite reads in 2019. I think I would really like to know what inspired you to write this story with silk weaving as the main backdrop of the book?
Thank you, Sissi, both for your questions and your support for Blackberry and Wild Rose.
I had the idea for the story when I lived near Spitalfields. I was captivated by the tall Georgian townhouses in streets like Fournier Street. I remember looking up and seeing the longlights built into the attics, and wondering what had gone on there in the 18th century. When I found out that they would have housed looms for the journeymen silk weavers to weave exquisite figured silks, I began to imagine a fictional household of Huguenot master silk weavers, full of secrets and intrigue, set against the real historical backdrop of the turbulent industrial troubles of the silk industry at the time. Then I discovered that the foremost silk designer in 18th century Spitalfields was a woman (Anna Maria Garthwaite) and the idea for my protagonist, Esther Thorel, was born.
2. You have portrayed the complex relationship between Sara and Esher so perfectly. Whose perspective / story was more difficult to write in your opinion?
I felt having dual narrators gave the story more breadth, as I could explore two different sides of Georgian society and, as you say, the two women’s relationship with each other. So I would say that neither was more difficult to write, but I did feel I could perhaps have a little more fun with Sara’s point of view, as she is definitely the less polite and conforming of the two!
3. What are your top three favourite books?
Very hard to choose, but these are books that really moved or inspired me:
Perfume, Patrick Suskind
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Thank you so much Sonia for taking your time to answer my questions! Blackberry and Wild Rose is out in both hardback and paperback, go check it out!