Bestselling Author


The Underground Library by Jennifer Ryan

Historical Happy Hour welcomes acclaimed author Jennifer Ryan to discuss her latest novel, The Underground Library. When the Blitz imperils the heart of a London neighborhood, three young women must use their fighting spirit to save the community’s beloved library in this heartwarming novel based on true events. 

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, The Spies of Shilling Lane, The Kitchen Front, and The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. Her novels have been featured in The New York Times Book Review, People,, among other outlets. She was previously a nonfiction book editor. Originally from Kent and then London, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and two children. 

Jane Healey welcomes  Jennifer Ryan to talk about her latest historical fiction novel, “The Underground Library.” Inspired by real events during the London Blitz, Ryan’s novel pays homage to the resilience of women and the community spirit that flourished amidst the chaos. The discussion delves deep into Ryan’s extensive research, the creation of her novel’s characters, and the transformative impact of libraries in war-torn London. Jennifer also shares personal anecdotes from interviews with women who lived through the era, offering a poignant glimpse into the past through the lens of those who witnessed it first-hand.

Here’s what we covered:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction to Jennifer Ryan and the inspiration behind “The Underground Library.”
  • [00:01:34] How personal stories from the Blitz shaped the novel.
  • [00:03:31] The significance of community efforts during the Blitz, exemplified by the creation of an underground library.
  • [00:04:04] Jennifer’s research journey, including visits to archives and personal interviews.
  • [00:11:01] Discussion on the perspectives of three main characters and their backstories.
  • [00:18:09] Literary influences and how books within books add depth to character development.
  • [00:20:00] Speculation about potential movie adaptations and casting choices.
  • [00:30:58] Writing advice from Jennifer Ryan and how to engage with her work online.


[00:00:00] Jane: Welcome to Historical Happy Hour, the podcast that explores new and exciting historical fiction novels. I’m your host, Jane Healy, and in today’s episode, we welcome Jennifer Ryan to discuss her latest amazing novel, The Underground Library. Jennifer, thank you so much for coming. Thank you so much for having me.

It’s a real pleasure to be here. So fun. I’m going to do a brief bio and then we’re going to jump into questions. Everyone who’s here, thank you for coming tonight. And please drop in on the chat. Tell me where you’re from. Jennifer just told me she’s she lives on the East Coast, but she’s actually in Ireland.

So it’s midnight there. So we’re very, I’m very honored that you’re staying up that late past my bedtime to do this. Thank you. So Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilberry Ladies Choir, The Spies of Shilling Lane, The Kitchen Front, and The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. Her novels have been featured in the New York Times Book Review, People, NPR, and many other outlets.

She was previously a non fiction book editor. Originally from Kent and then London, she lives in the Washington, D. C. area with her husband and two children. The Underground Library is her latest book. And Booklist says, not only is it a testament to the strength of women during World War II, it is also a love letter to libraries and the boundless knowledge and pleasure they provide.

I agree. Again, welcome and thank you again for coming. Oh, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, so great. Talk to me about the premise of this novel, which is inspired by true events in London during World War II.

[00:01:34] Jennifer: Yeah The how I kind of formulate books, how I come up with the idea in the first place is generally through research, and I basically have done a huge amount of research during the years I’ve been writing about the second marvel, and especially like personal stories, particularly of women.

And. Some of these stories just really came to life for me, and some of the personalities involved as well. And one of the stories I came across was of a library in East London that was farmed in one of the first few weeks of the Blitz, the London Blitz, and some very brave Librarians decided that instead of doing what everyone was expecting them to do, which was to ship all of the books off to be stored in Wales that they would be taken down to the local underground station where people were sheltering so that they could start a library down there.

Now they faced an awful lot of opposition from all sorts of angles apart from anything, people kept saying surely all the books are going to go missing, because you haven’t got any doors, you can’t put doors on a, on an underground library. But they said it’s a library anyway, people can take out books with a with a library card.

Why not give it a go and we’ll see what happens. And so they did. So they, it was a tremendous community effort and I think that’s really what I wanted to bring out in this story is, during the Blitz particularly, everyone was really helping each other and there was this big community spirit, this feeling that everyone was doing things for the, for everyone else, to try and get through the Blitz and the war as it was.

And, so yes, that’s partially also what the story is about, is bringing the community together, bringing the underground community together through books.

[00:03:31] Jane: That definitely came through and it’s one of the things I loved about the story. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to author’s notes, of course, and I loved your author’s note about all the amazing research you did.

One fact that you mentioned, it’s estimated that over a half a million people use the London Underground as shelters during the war, which I’m like, I guess that makes sense. It seems like a huge number, but then, Thinking about it, it makes sense. Talk about your extensive research for this novel.

Where you went, what you did, what you found.

[00:04:04] Jennifer: So first of all, I went to the library itself, which is amazing. And there’s quite a lot of information there about it’s amazing past. There’s, Even before the Second World War, there’s stories about this place, but I won’t go into that now, but but so that’s where it really it began.

And then obviously there’s various other places in London archives and museums and so forth that have a little bit more detail about this. But also about the Blitz as well. The Imperial War Museum has a huge amount of information about the Blitz. And not only that, they have a lot of archives as well that you can if you make an appointment, you can go into this huge archive area and delve around through their system and everything.

There, there’s also the National Archives in London as well, so there’s a lot of information there. But actually what I was really mostly interested in was the experiences of people during the Blitz and particularly women who were left in London. And. What they were doing and how they were helping each other because during the blitz that during actually the whole of the second world war when Britain was really on a back foot right from the beginning and there was really a general feeling around and this is very much propagated by the government as well in the media as well.

Really everyone just had to do everything they could because Britain has so much to lose, really. And it was just a case of everyone working together. And one of the things that they really pressed for the population to do was to keep cheerful and keep very upbeat and try and help each other out.

And try and distract, particularly in the Blitz, try to distract people from the bad things that were happening. Try to make make light of things. There was this and I think it’s a really nice idea going around that a bomb would have your name on it to try to make it almost a fateful event that was going to happen.

What will be, rather than people fretting about, oh, if I go out now I might get hit by a bomb, or if I do this, or if I don’t do that, or whatever. And it was basically a lot of these things were there to try to make people that feel come to terms with it and come to terms with some of the tragedies that were happening at the time as well.

And so out of this came this big community spirit as well, particularly with the women. The women were asked to join voluntary groups to help out. In a big way, and one of those groups or a couple of those groups dealt directly with the Blitz and clearing up the Blitz and there was ambulances, like makeshift ambulances that were made out of old cars that had the backs sawed, sewed sawn off them.

And these were driven by women who could already drive who were quite often quite upper class women because they were the ones who could drive and they would go out during the blitz when the bombs were actually coming down over the streets. And there was a blackout as well, so there were no streetlights because they wanted to try to disguise the cities so that the bombers couldn’t see where there were people living.

And there was there were people doing that, there were air air raid patrols who were out putting out, and fire brigades as well, which were quite often manned by women, as again putting out fires that were started by the bombs, and all sorts of things that women were doing, but they so there’s an awful lot of personal stories about these in journals and diaries.

And there’s an extensive collection of these down in the University of Sussex where they’re stored at the beginning of the war. A couple of sociologists started something called the mass observation, where they asked the general public to write journals and diaries and send them in. To, so they collect them and they would publish a newsletter every month or so, and they would, print various parts of people’s diaries.

And this was a big incentive for a lot of people. They wanted to see their words in print. And And so I think at the beginning of the war, there was about 600 people who joined but by the end of the war, there were about 6, 000. And these journals are just amazing. They’re just amazing to read, because apart from anything, you can really see the journey that the, that the woman, particularly women, particularly has throughout the war, from being really quite subservient people who didn’t really have an awful lot of freedom, who quickly moved, transitioned into women who had to work, and had to get quite often quite high powered jobs, and quite often they would get special training, or they would join the forces, the women’s forces, and so forth.

all the way through to the end of the war when, obviously, they had completely changed radically and had different expectations and there were different freedoms as well and sexual freedoms as well. And yeah, so it’s fascinating. So that was another source that I had. There’s also books that are full of letters that were written at the time as well.

And they’re really great sources as well. I’ve also done a lot of interviews with old ladies, which has been, I really enjoy that part of my research. Sadly it’s harder, it’s becoming harder and harder to find old ladies who were alive as a, as a good aid at that point these days.

But it’s, it was, it’s been so much fun talking to ladies about, their best bits of the war. One of the most surprising things, I think, is that they all say that the war was one of the best times of their lives. And The reason is because there was an awful lot of like free entertainment, like dances, and there was a lot of romance there was a lot of, the usual rules about courting and dating, just went out of the window during the war, because you never knew you were going to be alive for very much longer, or if your sweetheart was being sent to the front, you weren’t really worrying too much, and they just had a really great time.

Obviously, there was certain people who had, big bereavements when it really wasn’t a good time for them, or whatever, but I think the majority. Of women of that age, who were in their teenage years or early twenties said that it was just a marvelous time.

And there was this amazing community spirit as well. Everyone was really pulling for the same thing. Yeah. So it was a unique

[00:11:01] Jane: era. Yeah. Yeah.

No, thank you. I was, one of my questions was there anything that surprised you in the fact that They look back on the warriors like so fondly and that’s, that has to be so amazing, like talking to source, sources like that who, you know, firsthand experiences and knowledge.

That’s, like you said, a lot of them are, we’re getting farther away from World War II now, so not as many of them are left. I want to talk about your three, this is told from three different perspectives, this story, Julia, Katie, and Sophie. They’re very different women. Sophie is actually a refugee from Germany.

How did you create these main characters and talk a little bit about their backstories?

[00:11:46] Jennifer: It’s a bit like the stories themselves. I, through my extensive research, you just come across. These characters and what they’ve been through and in a way it’s a molding together of, some of these characters and some of these big narratives that you tend to come across in the war.

So Sophie, the refugee, Jewish refugee from Berlin. This is a very 6, 000 or more Jewish women were given visas, domestic service visas. before the Second World War to move into, to, to relocate to the UK to, and usually London it was. So what happened there was a lot of European countries were closing their borders to refugees because of they worried about war and they worried about people infiltrating their country.

But there was a humanitarian group in London. And they pressurized the government to take on give people a visa if they had a job already over here in domestic service because domestic service was a was in demand. There weren’t really enough domestic service servants around, housekeepers, maids, cooks, that kind of thing.

A lot of women. Applied to the jobs would go through the British Embassy in Berlin and all these other cities, Vienna, a lot of them were Austrian actually as well. And they would, all these women would go and see if they could get a job, and if they could secure a job, that meant they could get passage to England, to Britain.

So Sophie is one of those women. Now quite often, they came from more kind of upper middle and upper class families, so quite often, like Sophie, they would have been used to having servants themselves. and not being servants, and they had absolutely no experience of what it was like to clean and cook and everything.

And so poor Sophie who’s very young, she’s only 19, is in a new country without any of her family, and she’s got this awful man. He’s a widow. Oh, he’s just horrible. This is actually a once again, you hear quite a lot of stories about these poor women being taken advantage of, really, because they were dependent on their visa and on their job in order to keep their visa.

So yeah, so poor Sophie is stuck with this horrible man who treats her really badly. She has to clean and cook and do absolutely everything. But she finds solace in books and in the library and in the book club in the library that Juliet has started So Juliet is she is another type of, this was another scenario during the war, is that at the beginning of the war, because all the men.

were taken into service, there was, particularly in the cities, there was suddenly this huge deficit of young men and not, actually not only young men, sort of men on the whole, they just they just left the city and they left their jobs. And so women suddenly found themselves, so women were encouraged to move into the cities in order to take these jobs.

It was considered very patriotic. To do this. And so Juliette is, was managed to get a job, so in her village, in her small town where she comes from, she was an assistant librarian, just an assistant, and then she managed to get a job as a deputy head librarian. Which would have been unheard of in, before the war, absolutely, there was, there would be no way they would have given that job to a woman.

But during the war, this is what happened is suddenly, women were being accepted into courses to do engineering and medicine, where they wouldn’t have done that before. And it’s quite funny. Interesting that before the war, men really saw women as being really a bit fluffy, very emotional, too emotional and not really clever enough for anything else.

But as soon as the war came along and they were needed to fill the spot, suddenly it was like, Oh, yeah, you can train to be an engineer and off you go. It’s no trouble at all. You’ll be fine. Anyway off Juliet goes. Now, Juliet’s in her mid twenties and she, off she goes into London and Yeah, so she basically has this head librarian who doesn’t think that because she’s a woman she should really be in this role and then, Obviously the library is going to shut and everything and it’s up to her to really hold everything together and she’s got an awful lot at stake with this job because she doesn’t want to go back to her parents and her fiancé who’s gone missing on the front line and everything.

It’s all very complicated for poor Juliette, but but she’s the one that starts it all. The book club, she really recognizes that people need books, particularly during war. It’s a sense of connection that you get through books. It’s that sense of connection of connecting not only with the writer and with the human experience but also with other people through book clubs, through book readings.

Readings in the library, in the underground library all the time. So that they can really connect to a large audience and share books with people who might not be able to read or might not want to read all the time. And yeah, so that’s Juliet. And so Katie is a school girl who has been offered she’s very clever and she’s been offered a place in university.

So once again during the war, there were a lot more spaces for women in universities. So whereas normally really not very many women go to college during the war, there’s, the numbers went up sharply. So yeah, and she is one of those. There’s a lot more going on with Katie, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.

[00:18:09] Jane: No spoilers! Katie has a rough road, but yeah, no spoilers on there. So you talked about, I love, Books about books I, one of my favorites is the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, also World War II, and I was thinking about that book when I read this one because of all the literary references and how, a character’s taste in books or poems or genres Or their favorite book revealed something about them.

And that must have been really fun to weave in. You met, you hit some of my favorites, of course, Jane Eyre and, Pride and Prejudice, naturally, so that must have been a really fun element to incorporate.

[00:18:50] Jennifer: Oh, absolutely. Oh my goodness. And I don’t which books do you pick to feature in your book about books?

Honestly, but it was a joy to pick them, honestly. I wanted a little bit of a spread, yeah. When I try to do that. But obviously, I don’t know. My favorite part is when Katie gives there’s a young character, a girl who she’s trying to get into reading, and There’s a moment where she gives her a book to read from the library, and it’s Little Women, and I just, I just thought that was such a big moment, that sort of sharing of a book she loves so much, and giving it to this girl and knowing she is going to love it as well.

And I don’t know, I think it’s that, that feeling that we all get, recommending books and everything, but it’s It’s this sharing of a story, a narrative, a group of characters that you grow to love. It’s, there’s so much more inside a book than just, just a story.

[00:20:00] Jane: Totally agree.

This is, I’ve been asking this question now because I love books and movies. I re watched the Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society all the time. And who do you see, do you have any ideas for who Juliet, Katie, and Sophie, who would play them in a movie? Do you have any thoughts? Because I have a couple thoughts.

So I will share.

[00:20:19] Jennifer: Oh my goodness. You tell me. I haven’t. You know what? I haven’t thought about that. So you go ahead and tell me who you think.

[00:20:25] Jane: I only, I didn’t get that far mainly because I feel like I don’t know that many young actresses anymore. I’m like too old. But I was thinking that Lily James actually would make a great Juliet and maybe, oh yeah.

And then for Sebastian, her potential love interest, I was thinking Taylor Swift’s ex boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, it would be good. He had that look to me in my head. So those two. Have you heard anything about like movie interest or anything like that?

[00:20:57] Jennifer: No, not yet. Not yet. No, but that would be amazing.

That would be amazing. So fun.

[00:21:05] Jane: I have a few writing related questions and then I will take questions from the audience and anyone who has questions you can put them in the Q& A or the chat and I’ll field them after I ask these few questions. What is your writing process like? I always ask, are you a plotter or a pantser?

Do you write by the seat of your pants or do you plot it all out beforehand?

[00:21:29] Jennifer: I’m a bit of both. I’m not a big plotter. I’m not I, That never really works for me, that, plotting everything out like a crazy person. Because you’ve got to give the characters room to grow. It’s, I really I really write character driven novels.

Yeah. They’ve got to feel real to the characters and they, and once you set a character in motion, they generally decide what they’re going to do anyway. And sometimes they really surprise you. I think Sophie really surprised me actually. I was expecting her to really be very meek. And, because she was plunged into this bad situation.

She retains her humor all the way through. She’s got this lovely sense of humor and this sense of just getting through, and a kind of resilience that is, it surprised me. And, but it was there all the time, yeah, definitely. So yeah, that’s that’s one of the, yeah, so anyway, so yes, basically bit of both. Yeah,

[00:22:39] Jane: that’s often that’s what about you? Do you do the same? So I plotted out and plan it out. But ultimately I like I do a little bit of the same like I every four or five chapters or so. I’ve got to step back and be like, okay, which way is it going?

Is this working? Are these characters? You know what? It’s so it’s not I just plot it out and write the thing. It’s definitely a little bit of both. Yeah. I wish it was that easy, but no, it’s not. Did you, so this is interesting to me too. You, to hold the story from the three points of view, alternating between chapters, was that always the plan?

And did you find that easy or difficult or? So

[00:23:18] Jennifer: It’s a bit of both actually. No, it’s really hard. It is because you’re you also have another character there, which is the group of them, if and so you have to fit all their narratives together somehow, and the general the arc of the group itself.

And how that’s going, but it’s, it is, it’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. But that said, I don’t think I’ve I’m not sure I would like to write just a single narrative, I didn’t think, I think that would either be just too linear and straightforward. I don’t know. What

[00:24:01] Jane: do you think? I like how you do it because it’s like every chapter is a different perspective, but it advances the story still, and I think that’s a tricky.

Yeah, I liked how you did that. It’s still the story’s always moving forward. It’s not like the same scene. And I think that’s tricky and you did it really well so yeah,

[00:24:18] Jennifer: thank you.

[00:24:18] Jane: It was hard. So how do you strike a balance between fact and fiction in your storytelling? And are there any strict rules that you go by?

[00:24:30] Jennifer: I’ll start with the strict rule, which is everything could have had either. I’ve known I’ve read. exactly that thing happening or it could happen. I know I’ve read about enough things that are like that or similar enough or an amalgamation of things stuck together means that it might happen.

Does that make sense? And that is my base rule. In the Second World War, there’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens. I’ll give you an example that happened in the book. Is that I’ll tell you the real life story. But I actually put it when it happened to Juliet in the book. Juliet’s an ambulance driver.

In reality, it happened to actually a nurse who was in the Blitz at night. The bombs were raining down, and she was walking past a building that had been bombed, and there were a group of men who were standing around a huge gaping kind of gash in the ground, where a building had basically fallen down that it had collapsed, and there was like this narrow passage down between the limbs of the building and the rubble.

Going deep into the earth and what happened was they looked at her and they said oh We need you because you’re slim enough to go down the hole We’re not slim enough and you are and she was like What and what did she want me to do? And literally they turned her upside down, held her by the ankles and passed her down this very narrow crevice.

And there was a man at the bottom who was screaming in pain. And basically she had, she was given a, like this pad of chloroform in her hand so that she could basically help give him pain relief basically and so she had to go down there and she’s honestly she said the smell the sound of him and this whole job that she had to do was absolutely it was incredible and just awful in so many ways but she did it and you know the man You know, passed away peacefully which is the best that you can do.

Anyway, but she came out of it in awful shock and everything, but she wrote about it, which is how I read about it. And I, she definitely felt pleased with herself for doing it, and everything. But I think that’s a very good example of. Just taking a true story and and bringing it back to life again.

Yeah, so one of the things, oddly enough, that I changed in that story is that in real life, and this I think says a lot about community spirit at the time and what people would do during the Blitz, and was, she had to, so she had to take off her coat, obviously, in order to fit down the crevice, but she actually took off.

Her outer clothes and went down. She was probably wearing like a slip or a petticoat or something underneath her dress. And she went down wearing that and just her underwear. And and she didn’t even think twice about it. She was like, this is what I need to do. And she did it. And I changed that in the book because I thought no one would believe me.

No one would believe it. Stranger than fiction. Everyone would be like, oh wow, I can’t believe that actually happened. But yeah, so I didn’t have Juliette taking off her hat out of, I just said, she just took off her coat. But I think that’s a really good example of how that works.

I don’t know, in the Second World War there are an awful lot of stories, and of just bravery and, community stories as well. People coming together and you get a really good understanding of this sense of community spirit. So during the Second World War, there was also This feeling that you have to tell jokes a lot, and you have to keep smiling and keep cheerful, because that was how we were going to get through this, was just by keeping cheerful.

And my grandmother used to tell all these funny stories about the Second World War. And at the time I just thought, oh my grandmother’s just really funny, but ever since then, I’ve worked out that because I interviewed all these old ladies. And they all had funny stories about the Second World War, and it was because that’s kind of part and parcel of how they got through the war, was by telling these very funny stories, and when something happens, they would just remember it, so they could cheer people up with another funny story.

Things like so my grandmother belonged to a choir. And when a friend of theirs was in hospital because she’d been injured during a bomb raid. They went to visit her and they sang so badly that, and they sang on, they sang badly on purpose. They were like humming it up and they sang so badly that the choir was, the matron in charge came down and told them that they had to go and sing for every single ward in the entire hospital so that they could cheer everybody up with their bad singing.

Oh, I love that. That’s an excellent story. Yeah. So there was a lot of stories and it was like cheering people up and that they were always trying to spin everything so that it was look on the bright side, which is once again, I think another reason why people look back fondly in those times, because it was people would Cheer more cheerful, I think.

Yeah, yeah, survive and stay sane.

[00:30:23] Jane: And yeah, exactly.

[00:30:25] Jennifer: Yeah, bright red lipstick was all the rage, and it was encouraged by the government, and by the press, because the idea was to keep cheerful and for women to look good, even when they’re wearing their uniforms to put on the red lipstick and it shows that you’re out there and doing your bit and doing it in a positive way.

[00:30:46] Jane: Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. And before I take questions last question, writing related question, there’s a lot of aspiring writers on here, aspiring authors. What’s your best advice for them?

[00:30:58] Jennifer: Keep going on the same project.

[00:31:01] Jane: Yeah. Yes. Finish the project.

[00:31:03] Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah. Finish it. And then edit it.

And then edit it again. And edit it again. I don’t know. It feels like you’re, investing an awful lot of time and energy into one thing. But you’re, I don’t know. I think I, I kept, because it takes so long to write a novel. So I think I started writing novels when I was in my 20s.

I think that was when my first one was like, but I honestly, I never finished any of them because I’d get about halfway through and then I’d have what I thought was a better idea. Because it’s hard. It’s too hard to finish. Set that one to one side and I would look at the one which is the better idea.

But actually that’s not the way to go about this. This is like you, you have to be ready to invest. See where it takes you, right? Yeah. .

[00:31:51] Jane: Even now, I like, if I’m mid draft or something, I’m like, oh, shiny new idea, . I wanna , but you gotta stick with what, yeah, you gotta stick with the manuscript and finish it where you can’t do anything with it.

So I think that is excellent advice. What’s the best way that readers can find out what’s happening with you? I wanna hold up the book ’cause I know you’re not home. Beautiful cover and you have a great one here. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, this is a special advance reader copy. I love getting it in the mail and you have a wonderful book club packet on your website.

I’d love that. I went through that as well. So book club people, Jennifer has a great book club packet with questions and all this cool stuff. So I wanted to mention that and it is a beautiful cover sharing. What is the best, like, how do you prefer readers stay in touch with you? Newsletter Instagram, is there a certain social media you like, or?

[00:32:49] Jennifer: So if you go onto my website, there’s a place where you can submit messages. And that just comes directly into my email box. That is, I’m a real old fashioned email person. I, you know what, I get to social media every so often, but I’m not I’m not on it every second moment. But I do get to my Facebook page, and Instagram as well.

And sometimes X as well too but less I’d say Facebook and Instagram much more.

[00:33:21] Jane: I know, I think I used to see you on Twitter when it was Twitter. I it used to be a really nice author literary community on there, and it’s changed a lot in the past couple years. But yeah, I remember, yeah.

Okay, so questions. Mary Quinn asks, do you have any relatives who went through the blitz?

[00:33:39] Jennifer: I do. So my, my grandmother was in it. And, but it’s not only that. Like everyone, when I was growing up, people were still talking about it, and he could still see the remnants in London, that we still bombed out buildings when I was growing up as well.

And, but it was just so close in memory and Yeah. So it was, if people would discuss, it would just come up in conversation a lot. If I had 60 older relatives, aunts and uncles and, everything, my grandmother seemed to there was a bunch of like great aunts that we always had to go and visit.

[00:34:19] Jane: The book, Rosemary Sheen asks, is this out in audio, audible or audio format? You’re this. It is right. It

[00:34:26] Jennifer: is. And actually I just got a message today from someone who read it. You listen to it on audible and said what a great recording it is. Oh, nice. That’s great. I have a huge audible fan. I really am.

But honestly, it really makes a difference. How good the person is who’s reading it. And it’s apparently it works really well. Oh,

[00:34:50] Jane: that’s excellent.

[00:34:51] Jennifer: That’s great. Yeah. Oh, who’s the narrator? It’s Fenella Woolgar. Okay. I’ve heard the name. She’s British a British actress. But yeah, no, she’s just, she’s got a lovely voice and it’s just right.

She’s just perfect. Yeah.

[00:35:06] Jane: Oh, that’s great. That’s great.

[00:35:07] Jennifer: Thank you.

[00:35:08] Jane: Lynn LaVangie, I also, I need to mention there’s so many lovely comments and people are in from all over the country and even the world. So I, Linda Foster’s from Kenya. Crazy. So you have a lot of fans all over the place. And I’ll send you the comments because they’re so sweet.

But Lynn LaVangie asks, when Katie suggests Little Women to Meg, did you make the connection between Mr. March being off to war, leaving his wife and daughters like so many families in the UK? That’s a great question.

[00:35:36] Jennifer: Sorry, could you quickly? Oh, sure. Yeah. Sorry.

[00:35:38] Jane: Sorry. Now, when Katie suggests Little Women to Meg, did you make the connection between Mr.

March and Little Women being off to war, leaving his wife and daughters behind, like so many families in the UK did?

[00:35:53] Jennifer: Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I did definitely try to encompass like a war theme. And And the other thing that I did talk about it in the book was book banning in Europe as well, and big book burning as well.

And that entire discussion about, Why it’s important to, to keep books and how they add to culture, and why it’s so wrong to burn them and to ban them and what it means. It was Brecht, I think, in Germany when Hitler was burning books in the 1930s and a lot of authors left Germany because they were worried that, what was going to come next.

And it was Brecht, when he was leaving, he said, where they burn books, they eventually burn people. And he was right. Yeah. Chilling,

[00:36:50] Jane: chilling. Yeah. Yeah Tim Hayes you asked this question a while ago, I want to make sure I get to it. After the war ended, where did the underground library go, the books, the documents, etc.?

[00:37:02] Jennifer: Oh, they went back into the library. The library itself was fixed. It wasn’t fixed until after the war. Yeah. And, but the books were still there. Were transferred back up there. And that’s why there’s still quite a lot of information about the underground library in the present library. Yeah. If you ever go there.

[00:37:23] Jane: I hope to. What are you reading right now? Are you reading anything right now? Or are you just too busy on book tour?

[00:37:30] Jennifer: No, I’ve always got, I’ve always got a book going. I have just finished or I’ve just, yeah, just finished The Covenant of Water. Oh, I have that on audible. I haven’t read it yet. I heard

[00:37:44] Jane: it’s

[00:37:44] Jennifer: amazing.


[00:37:46] Jane: Yes,

[00:37:46] Jennifer: it’s very long, but beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

[00:37:51] Jane: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, okay. I’m excited for that one. And I’m also, I’m reading cause she’s up next on Historical Happy Hour, The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly. I’m just about to start that. She’s coming up at the end of the month. But Jennifer, this was delightful.

Thank you for staying up so late. Oh, honestly, it’s a pleasure. It’s an absolute pleasure. Yeah, no, I really appreciate it. And and please keep in touch. And readers, now you know that she has a book club packet. You can go to her website, send her any notes. And and yeah, good luck. Best of luck with the rest of your lunch.

It’s an amazing story. It’s, I was, I said before we came on, It’s heartwarming and hopeful and it’s your mom’s favorite of all the books you’ve written. So it is. When your mom endorses it, yeah, everyone needs to check it out. So thank you again for coming on and and best of luck over there with your trip.

Oh, thank you. Thanks very much.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

Jane Healey

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