New Novel – Lucia’s War

But see, if you will, a rainy evening in August 1917, and a down-at-heel chamber in Soho. A girl of twenty-one, of mixed race, two years out of Jamaica and altogether jaded with life. Three years into the great Bangarang and no sign of an end. Pleasant weather, fresh fruit, courtesy from strangers – all lost dreams. Rain the whole time. Skin with a bloom of grey on the surface, mind shrunk down. An open heart of late turned surly as the weather.

I’m delighted to announce the winter 2019 early 2020! publication of my second novel, Lucia’s War. This book will tell a story of motherhood, music, loss and redemption, set in the latter part of WWI and post-Armistice. The cover design is by Richie Cumberlidge of More Visual Cover Design and editing will be undertaken by Liz Hudson of The Little Red Pen who so ably shaped its predecessor, White Feathers.

It was always my desire to continue on with Lucia’s story where it began in White Feathers, and while Lucia’s War is in the same universe, with a few characters reappearing, her tale is separate and complete in itself – and one that I feel should be told in its own right. Among other themes, it explores how the propaganda machine weaponised motherhood during that war, and how black intellectual life flourished in London in the late teens and early postwar years. Not to mention fending off advances from W.B. Yeats and Bertrand Russell…:)

I’m excited to spread the word and keep folks updated. Feel free to enter your email address in the “Subscribe by Email” box on the right-hand side of the page if you want to hear updates and progress.


…And Therefore I Write In Exile

In the last five years, since my first novel has been published, I have written approx 300,000 words, comprising three novels. All these words are currently unpublished.

About 120,000 of them deserve this fate; the particular work they live in needs a severe rewrite and a change-of-person narration. The other 180,000 are two novels, one of which has been rejected, but which my agent likes very much and has plans for.

The other is Lucia’s story.

Readers of White Feathers will know who Lucia is; those who have not read the book will be introduced to a young Jamaican woman in early 20th century London attempting to find her fortune as a musician – and restore something precious that was lost to her during the war the year before. No, not lost – taken. With Lucia’s history, necessarily, the basso continuo is always about appropriation and theft.

I struggled very hard to finish this work, frantic not to lose my writing career, battling tough time constraints and obligations to get it done. And I lost my career anyway. Because after sending it for consideration and receiving professional feedback, I realised I spent all that time writing the wrong book, or the right book too late.Continue reading “…And Therefore I Write In Exile”

E8 walk Stage 1: Carrick-on-Suir to Clonmel


My first day walking the Irish leg of the E8 (the bits I hadn’t already done) started at Carrick-on-Suir. As mentioned in the previous post, I’m relying a lot on public transport due to the linear nature of the path and the car being needed elsewhere. But that’s a plus as far as I’m concerned – public transport is less conducive to climate change – and not having a car means you don’t have to worry about where to park it. And I wanted to explore the lesser appreciated and worthwhile parts of our train network.Continue reading “E8 walk Stage 1: Carrick-on-Suir to Clonmel”

Travelling the E8 route


Last Saturday I started a long-term quest to complete the Irish leg of the E8. This is one of eight routes that join up waymarked trails throughout Europe. Having already completed the Wicklow Way and part of the South Leinster Way (the first two trails) I started the East Munster Way and will continue heading west to Valentia/Dursey. I don’t have the time to do this all in one go, so it will be done in sporadic bursts of daily or weekendly hiking throughout the year(s).

Since the route is linear, and therefore unconducive to driving, I will be using public transport as much as possible. I believe it’s important to describe how I do it in order to promote car-free travel as much as I can. Some of the routes are remote so taxis may come into play for those ones.

Many of these tracks are underused so I hope I can encourage others to give them a go! I would like to thank the bloggers and hikers at Tough Soles for providing the inspiration.

Review of The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien


Published in paperback by Hoopoe Fiction, August 2018

The recent shenanigans over red paint being thrown over a war memorial soldier made out of scraps of tin in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, highlight how much pearl-clutching is still happening over memorialising WWI. To my mind, it’s unedifying to wring one’s hands over paint on a statue when WWI was an unrelenting, unrestrained, bloody, horrific, unnecessary sh*tshow from start to finish. This desire to sanitise, make decent, something that is indecent both in conception and execution – I don’t understand it. Thank God, then, for Ruqaya Izzidien’s debut novel which reminds the reader of exactly that. The Watermelon Boys explores the effect of that war on a family in Mesopotamia (Iraq, as is) and a young boy growing up in Wales and it is heartbreakingly beautiful and sad.

Through the eyes of Ahmed in Baghdad and Carwyn in Wales, we see how imperialism in its ultimate form – the war to end all wars – destroyed (destroys) societies, lands, peoples – as well as the souls of the men it coerces into fighting on its behalf. This poisonous legacy is the grandfather of the Gulf Wars and the great-grandfather of terrorist movements and protracted wars in the region. Izzidien paints an evocative picture of society in Baghdad, where Jews and Muslims live together as friends, before the Arabs are betrayed by the British after the war is over. Carwyn, forced into volunteering by a brutish English stepfather, is beaten by his schoolmaster for speaking too many words of Welsh. Their plights are not the same, but neither are they are altogether different.

Ahmad is in many ways a quiet hero, retaining his values and integrity in spite of the viciousness of war around him and the losses he suffers. He is sustained by his wife Dabriya, a courageous woman, but even she cannot banish his memories of war. The battle scenes in which he is involved are impeccably described and Izzidien’s hard work is clear to discerning readers. There are moments of sharp humour and observation among the tragic arc.

The novel, although powerful, is not to my mind perfect. The younger characters felt interchangeable, and the romance between Amina and Yusuf didn’t move me that much. Also, the author has an understandable tendency to over-editorialise in the last section when the English are selling out the Arabs and demanding to be thanked for it. Allowing the abominable facts, and the characters’ reactions to them, to speak for themselves would strengthen the outrage, not diminish it as Izzidien seems to fear it might. But those caveats aside – and some of the best-written books I’ve read have greater flaws – this is a powerful, beautiful novel, demanding to be read by anyone interested in WWI fiction, and those who are not.


This book has a bit of everything. The most powerful thing it does possess; soul. Good, old-fashioned, soul. – Margaret Madden, Bleach House Library and Irish Independent reviewer.

Hello and welcome to my website! I write mainly historical fiction, my particular interest being World War One. I have a burning desire to rip through the saccharine, sentimentalised, packaged narratives of this era, and tell powerful stories that will keep any reader enthralled.

Read more about my books here.