I would like to welcome Emma Le Goff to Jera’s Jamboree today. Emma is the heroine of Linda Mitchelmore’s novel, To Turn Full Circle.
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Choc Lit (7 Jun 2012)
Life in Devon in 1909 is hard and unforgiving, especially for young Emma Le Goff, whose mother and brother die in curious circumstances, leaving her totally alone in the world. While she grieves, her callous landlord Reuben Jago claims her home and belongings. His son Seth is deeply attracted to Emma and sympathises with her desperate need to find out what really happened, but all his attempts to help only incur his father’s wrath. When mysterious fisherman Matthew Caunter comes to Emma’s rescue, Seth is jealous at what he sees and seeks solace in another woman. However, he finds that forgetting Emma is not as easy as he hoped. Matthew is kind and charismatic, but handsome Seth is never far from Emma’s mind. Whatever twists and turns her life takes, it seems there is always something – or someone – missing.
To Turn Full Circle is the first in a trilogy.
Hi Emma, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. It’s good to meet you.
Hello Sharon, good to meet you, too.
When we first meet you Emma, you’re recovering from an illness. Can you tell us more about that?
I’d like to forget all the horrid things that led to me becoming so ill but since you’ve been so kind as to ask me about that time, I’ll tell you.
When I eventually struggled down to the kitchen in Mrs. Phipps’ house, I couldn’t believe how long I’d been there. Six weeks! I think I must have slept for most of it, but I do remember drifting in and out of consciousness on the day of Mama’s and Johnnie’s joint funeral. In the church! I thought I was going to die of embarrassment if nothing else at the time. Although it was March and there was frost on the ground in the churchyard I was so hot – I seemed to be burning up from inside. And then my insides turned to ice and I fainted.
Somehow I ended up lodging with Mrs. Phipps but I don’t remember how I got there – on the back of someone’s pony and trap I expect. I do remember Dr. Shaw came to see me on my sick bed. He put ghastly poultices of goose fat and vinegar on my back to draw out the infection in my lungs. I had pleurisy, so Mrs. P informed me. The pain of it when I breathed in was almost unbearable at times. Then, on top of the pleurisy I teetered towards pneumonia, but the doctor saved me by pouring a teaspoon of ice-cold water down my throat – an old folk remedy but it worked for me. I’m still here!
Your father, Guillaume, was Breton. Can you tell us more about his family?
My Papa, Guillaume, was indeed a Breton and proud of it. The Bretons see themselves as being separate from France. Papa grew up speaking only Breton, but once he took up fishing he quickly learned French so he could communicate better when he fished along the French coastline. Papa’s parents died when he was fourteen years old – the influenza took them both within a week of one another …as it did a lot of people in his village, so he said. He was lucky to be spared. He had no older brothers or sisters to take him in so he went to sea, lodging with the captain of La Mouette. When he was rescued from that sinking boat off the Devon coast and then met my Mama at the Seaman’s Mission where she was serving the teas and making sandwiches, he had nothing to go back to Brittany for any more. So he stayed. And now here I am because of that.
What was life like when your father was alive?
When Papa was alive, life was good. He was a happy man – happy with Mama as his wife, happy with his lot. He taught me to read, write, and speak French and I will always be thankful to him that he was such a strict teacher about the grammar – which is difficult! He taught me to cook in the French way which made me different from all the other girls at school because their fathers would have died rather than be seen at the stove stirring something. But then, he’d had to learn seeing as he was orphaned so young (does it run in the family, do you think, being orphaned young?) when he had to fend for himself. Learn to cook or starve – he didn’t have any other option.
And how different was it after your mother and brother died?
My world almost came to a standstill after Mama and Johnnie died. There were only six weeks between Papa’s death and theirs and during that time Mama did nothing but cry most of the time so I became the mother of the family really. Johnnie didn’t understand that Papa wasn’t coming back because he was used to him being at sea for days at a time. He played up a lot….not doing what he was told and things like that. Everyone was kind to us after Papa died, but after Mama and Johnnie lost their lives falling from the cliff into the sea, the whispering started around me. People used to put their hands over their mouths but I heard – ‘Rachel Le Goff’s nothing but an evil suicide’. ‘And she’s a murderess with it, taking that innocent little lad with her’. And more horrid things in the same vein. Friends – or should I call them former friends? – blanked me in the street.
Why did your family not fit into the community?
My family fitted into the community well enough when we were a family. It was only afterwards that people said rude things about Papa being a furriner – that’s foreigner to you, but they say furriner around here. Papa always shared the vegetables he grew with the neighbours. Mama did sewing for those who were less able than she was with a needle, and often for no payment. Or maybe just a plate of scones because she couldn’t sew and bake at the same time, could she?
Seth helped his dad clear out your possessions from your home, Shingle Cottage. How did that make you feel?
How do you think it made me feel? Anger was the first thing. Then fear that Seth wasn’t my friend any more – we’d been getting on famously when my parents and Johnnie were alive – if he could have done such a thing. I felt betrayed if you must know. It was a long time before I understood why he did it. And forgave him.
What did you think when you found out fisherman, Matthew Caunter, could read and write?
Matthew, as you know, told me – and the police – he couldn’t read and write. I didn’t challenge it because there are loads of folk around here who can do neither. But the more time I spent with Matthew the more I began to realise he was a complex man. He was more articulate than most for a start. He had the confidence – and the money – to dine at Nase Head House which I wouldn’t have expected of a fisherman. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to stumble on all the sea charts and books in his room. I felt a bit frightened with this new knowledge, to be honest…..what sort of man was I lodging with? What else hadn’t he told me?
All the way through your journey, it feels like you’re at the mercy of others in your community yet you are always strong in spirit and believe in yourself. Where does this strength come from?
I don’t know where my strength comes from. If I did I’d bottle it and sell it because goodness only knows there are people in this world who can use a bit of backbone, aren’t there? Charles Darwin’s theories aren’t popular around here – not with the thousands of churches we’ve got in Devon they aren’t – but perhaps I’m a living example of ‘survival of the fittest’?
And finally, what changes did you see in the world through 1909 – 1912?
To be honest I wasn’t that bothered about what was going on in the world between 1909 and when I reached eighteen years old in September 1911 because I was just trying to stay alive. But an American called Commander Peary went to the North Pole (must have been mad….all that snow…brrrr) and a Frenchman – I’m pleased to say he was French – flew an aeroplane across the Channel. I can’t wait to fly in one of those. We had one King die and another take the throne. Florence Nightingale died….oh loads of things….but like I said, I was doing my best just to be breathing air.
Thank you for taking time out to be with us today Emma. The ending of To Turn Full Circle is a beginning. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to you next!
To Turn Full Circle is available to buy for Kindle on Amazon now or you can pre-order the paperback.
The lovely independent publisher, Choc Lit, have offered a scrumptious giveaway as part of the blog tour. For your chance to win some delicious Chocolate Devon Clotted Cream Fudge, just leave a pick me comment. Good luck!
Please take time to visit the other blogs taking part in the blog tour: