Hilary Sunman

Hilary SunmanFollowing the Letters

'Voices from the past - a journey through time in a remote French valley'

I am very excited to let you know that my book 'Following the letters – life love and war in SW France' will be published in October and is available ....

When I acquired a semi-derelict water mill in south west France, I set out to restore the mill and create a garden. But the accidental discovery of over 100 letters stowed in one of the cellars drew me into a fascinating voyage of discovery, leading me through two world wars and the tranquil rural life of the interwar years. I uncovered the intriguing relationship between two families, one aristocratic, the other farmers and winemakers.

Finally I arrived at the harrowing and moving death of Irénée in the final months of the Second World War.

I travelled around France - following the letters - exploring archives and parish registers. This book recounts my quest, the history of the letters, the people who wrote them, and the light they shed on the history of France. But I returned again and again to the remote and beautiful corner of the Lot, as fascinating now as it was to the writers of les lettres ...

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'Hilary has written a fine and enjoyable book. I particularly admire the way she combined the private story, the letters, with the more public history of the fall of France. These things aren't easily done.  Her voice seems to me just right - fond but never sentimental. Hats off to her!' Ian Jack, Guardian columnist, former editor of Granta magazine.

The joy of finding a beguiling personal history through the chance discovery of a bundle of papers in a cellar in the Lot. The French resistance and much else lives on here in 'Following the letters'. Sonia Purnell, best selling author of A woman of no importance.

Absorbing account of wartime life in rural France The author's thorough research into the lives of the correspondents has given us a wonderfully readable account of everyday lives in rural France in the first half of the 20th century and of aspects of World War 2 about which the French largely have kept silent. Truly fascinating. Jane Mackintosh.

I have just finished reading your book.  I enjoyed it immensely.  Growing up in Oz, we were so far removed from the events you so graphically describe.  You took me down lanes I'd never walked, an emotive tale of two families told with such sensitivity.  A great read. David Allen