French Author Inspired by Normandy Seaside Town

beach1French author Julie Wolkenstein has been inspired by her love of Saint-Pair-sur-Mer off the west Normandy coast where her family has had a holiday home for generations.

Her sixth novel, Adele and I, is set in a villa overlooking the sea in the town and based on a true family story that she knew nothing about until the death of her father in 2006.

Born in Paris, she loves visiting the family holiday home near Granville and has used bits and pieces from her love of the Normandy coast in previous books. ‘I have been inspired by Saint Pair already and there are bits in other books, but not in the same way as this one where it is central to the story,’ she explained.

The original inspiration came from a document she found after the death of her father in 2006. She was fascinated by 12 pages of handwritten biographical details written by her aunt about her father’s grandmother Adele Duval which revealed a family secret.

‘I was not very interested in my family history. People that I don’t know, particularly if they are dead, are a hundred times more like strangers even if they are related to me. They are not as alive for me as characters in a novel. But Adele was obviously an audacious and modern woman. I could feel as if she was nearby. Like me she loved the place,’ said Mrs Wolkenstein who is a professor of comparative literature at Caen University.

‘What I discovered about my great grandmother fascinated me. I wanted to know more,’ she added. But she hesitated. At first she considered writing a biography of her great grandmother and it was six years before she decided to turn the story into a novel.

Adele arrives in Saint-Pair for the first time at the age of 10 in 1879 and gets to know the special attraction of the sea and the long, deserted beaches of Normandy for the first time. The book examines how life changed drastically for people during this time as Europe descended into the First and Second World Wars, especially women.

But it also has another central character; the sea. The author wanted to make the sea and the sand a major part of the novel because it remains while life comes and goes. ‘This is a corner of paradise. Here nothing weighs on me. It is the most beautiful place in the world. It is the place where I am creative,’ she said.

About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

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