To be published on 9th July 2024. Handheld WW2 Classics 9
Sylvia Thompson’s glorious, passionate novel of the years leading up to the Second World War is a sumptuous romance set in the imperturbable correctness of demi-monde Paris, and in fast-moving 1930s London and Boston.
Blanche Lancret, a young Frenchwoman, negotiates intrigue in Tante Julie’s house and must control her passion for Vernon, the married brother of her American best friend, with a stoic sadness. But in the first year of the war her steadfast love for Vernon may be permitted after all, as Vernon’s implacable wife is discovered to be harbouring a stifled love of her own. When there is a storm at sea, the gulls fly inland, and French refugees are streaming towards England.
Thompson’s storytelling is austerely correct and devastating in its emotional truth. This is a wonderful forgotten novel from 1941, to be reissued with an introduction by Faye Hammill, Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow.
Beautiful and wayward, Sylvia Thompson (1902-68) was an Oxford contemporary of Dorothy L Sayers and Vera Brittain, and published 16 novels from 1921. She married the artist Theodore ‘Peter’ Luling and lived in Surrey.
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The Gulls Fly Inland opens in October 1939. Blanche Lancret is now a French exile in England, looking after her best friend Annabelle’s baby. She is waiting for news of Annabelle’s brother Vernon, who is fighting the enemy in France, and of her surrogate mother Tante Julie, a rich démi-mondaine who refuses to leave Paris.
To maintain her sang-froid Blanche writes her journal, reflecting on the story of her love for Vernon while she lived with Tante Julie in Paris in the 1930s. His American wealth does not make him correct enough for Tante Julie’s servants, who ensured that Blanche and Vernon could not meet. Now Vernon is caught in marriage to the impervious Bostonian Leonora and Blanche is slowly realising how they have been kept apart.
As the years wind forward Blanche and Vernon are caught tight in other people’s machinations, and only the war might set him free.