If like me, you enjoy a taste of Italy in the 1920’s, mixed with the promise of love and fine food then look no further for a great debut novel by Jane Hugen-Tobler.
Set in 1927 the ancient lemon tree sits resplendent on a farm in Italy. It holds the secrets of former kings and saints and has been protected through time by the Hugen-Toblers.
The farming family’s future is in the balance when tragic events unfold, and the tree is threatened.
Corrado’s passion is cooking. When he leaves Italy for London no one knows the unimaginable effect it will have on the tree and his family…
In London, Margaret is trapped in a loveless marriage with an older man who has a dark secret. He constantly buys her shoes but cannot make love to her.
Shifting between drab, grey England and vibrant, sunny Italy, Margaret and Corrado find themselves embarking on life changing journeys; little do they know how inconceivably important it will become when their lives collide and cultures clash.
I think Jane’s novel has certain similarities to Dance with Fireflies. I can’t wait to tuck into this beautiful book.
I caught up with Jane to ask her my usual clutch of author questions:
What form does your writing take? What is important to me is family so writing mirrors my experience of life. I think it’s good to write about what you know. I also love to explore European culture, particularly because I am part Italian and wanted to connect with my roots and history. Food is a big part of our family life; I am also fascinated with the 1920s, so all these ingredients have come together in my fictional novel Love, Life and Lemons.
How often do you write? I don’t write as much as I’d like as I work full time in a secondary school, I am an English tutor for GCSE in the evenings and I also have a family. Fortunately I get the school holidays off and that tends to be when I write the most. However I think about writing every day – it’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle in my mind that I’m constantly trying to piece together. I have a journal with me at all times and jot down any ideas, sentences, scenes or characters that come to mind.
How does your writing make you feel? It makes me feel whole. I see it as a healing process – a way to make sense of the past – and move on from it. I love writing when it’s going well because I forget about everything. Time disappears and I get completely lost in another world. I have learnt that even when it isn’t going well it is a process towards getting it right so when I have writer’s block I try to write my way through it and hope that good things will come eventually.
Where and when do you write? I write on my laptop at my kitchen table because I have a small house. When my daughter left home I used her room as a study with my own desk; but she came back (which I’m very happy about!) I tend to write best in the mornings. I suffer from insomnia, like many women my age, and get up early so I have no interruptions while everyone else is asleep.
What do you write about? Relationships – the difficulties people face and how they resolve them. For the past 7 years I have been writing Love, Life and Lemons so that has taken all my time. I also write poetry, some of which is incorporated within my novel. Now I have started my new book which is inspired by my latest holiday. As I was 50 this year I have been doing 50 things to celebrate. One of them was going to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. My husband organised a boat trip for my birthday where we visited various wonderful places around the coastline. On the way back we visited a secret cave and my new story stems from that. It is about hope and giving women from history a voice. I feel excited to be back to trying to figure everything out again. Now I have written one book I have the belief that I can write another. My husband is a huge support to me and he helps me come up with the stories. We go on long dog walks in the Devon countryside and mull things over.
What is the best thing about writing? Creating a whole imaginary world and its characters. As a writer you want the people you invent to be three dimensional and seem real. Since finishing my novel a friend asked me if I was writing a sequel. I said I didn’t think so because I’ve got an idea for a new book. She was disappointed and asked me what happened to two or three of the characters. I laughed and said I don’t know because they’re not real people! That was a real compliment because to her they were obviously well rounded characters that she believed in.
How long have you been writing for? I’ve always loved English and written poetry for many years. It has only since I went back into education that I have really written stories. I had some difficult teenage years. My parents divorced when I was 13 and I suffered with anxiety and depression. This culminated in me stopping going to school, so I left with no qualifications. I had my first son when I was 18 and then the rest of my family followed. I decided to go back to studying when I was 40. I went to a GCSE English literature evening class, which I loved. Then I went to Exeter College and undertook an Access Course studying English and History – the equivalent of taking 2 A-levels in one year. It was hard going as my family were younger then and I also had a part-time job. It was like a dream when I found I had been accepted at Exeter University; however, I hated it there. Despite feeling privileged to have got in, I felt like an imposter and an outsider and cried a lot. I was so much older than all the 18 year olds, the majority who had been to public schools. Thanks to my husband and family I persevered. They were very proud of me when I graduated with a 2:1 and a more importantly the beginnings of my novel.
If you would like to know more about Jane Hugen-Tobler or fancy a taste of this family saga, click on one of the links below.
Twitter – @lovelifeandlem1 // https://twitter.com/lovelifeandlem1
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Life-Lemons-Jane-Hugen-Tobler/dp/1072792923/ref=sxin_1_sxwds-bia-wc1_0?cv_ct_cx=love+life+and+lemons&keywords=love+life+and+lemons&pd_rd_i=1072792923&pd_rd_r=c936b386-a157-45f8-a6c0-8152a380b26a&pd_rd_w=ma9eH&pd_rd_wg=lrtJ5&pf_rd_p=e6929d27-d522-411d-816a-d675bc331519&pf_rd_r=YNZDGPE5RK6Z2CEG2BFE&psc=1&qid=1579110894