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Book set in Europe And Venice (An Agatha Christie Cocktail* Anyone?)

3rd July 2013

A Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry – book set in Europe and Venice (the train glides through Europe to Venice)

1409135470.01.ZTZZZZZZA lovely addition to Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is Veronica Henry’s romantic novel A Night on the Orient Express. A gathering of people from all walks of life, and all with different backstories board this vintage train in Northern Europe to rattle down to Venice in luxurious and charming style. Take Sleeping Car 3473 built in Birmingham in 1929, which started out in life as the Train Bleu ploughing down to the Riviera; admire the intricate garlands of flowers in a marquetry frieze which entwines its way round the cabins; or get carried away in the Cote d’Azure car, the plush ornateness of the carriages and fine dining just lift off the pages. Track the passengers through the Garden of England, to Calais and down to Lake Zurich and on to Innsbruck (which is actually in Austria and not in Switzerland as the book would suggest) and past vineyards, “pink buildings with roofs…square towers and campaniles….” (Are you there in your mind’s eye?).

And as the passengers disembark in the final stages of the novel, we are presented with Venice at its most alluring: as Emmie and Archie plough their way down the Grand Canal, Emmie takes it all in – “She glimpsed bridges and balconies and balustrades; distressed wooden shutters and wrought iron lamps and arched windows; mullions and exposed brick. Uneven, crumbling foundations surrounded doorways almost completely submerged in water. Gargoyles and lions’ heads leered at her from their buttresses; flowers tumbled from window boxes; faded signs made promises, but of what she had no idea. When she saw a black gondola, nonchalantly making its way up the canal in front of them, she nearly swooned”.

So, if you are thinking of taking a trip on The Orient Express, you not only have Agatha Christie’s novel to entertain you on board (and as the Orient Express website says: “There’s a real frisson about reading this book aboard the very train on which its author travelled in the 1930s”) there is now also this top romantic read to accompany you on your voyage. Enjoy!

The Agatha Christie Cocktail: *the full recipe for this cocktail cannot be disclosed, suffice it to say, it features an ingredient from each country through which the train passes – Kirsch, Anise and of course Champagne.

And we at TripFiction are off for a Sgroppino (a sorbet mixed with Prosecco) as we hand over for a few words to Veronica, “Writer in Residence” on the Venice Simplon Orient Express. Click on the cover to find out more about the book.

TF You are the Writer in Residence on the Simplon Orient Express for 2013. What does that involve?

VH When I approached the Venice Simplon Orient Express for help with the background in writing A Night on the Orient Express, we agreed that it would be lovely to revive the literary tradition associated with the train by making me Writer in Residence while undergoing the arduous research! I travelled on the train from Victoria to Venice with notebook, laptop and camera to hand, and was lucky enough to stay at the Hotel Cipriani on arrival in Venice, where I pinned down my thoughts and began to write. How could I fail to be inspired? As a writer, it was the perfect trip – right down to witnessing a marriage proposal in the restaurant. I watched with bated breath as a man drew a small box out of his suit pocket and went down on one knee – luckily his intended said yes.

TF How much did it affect the setting and composition of your storyline on the Orient Express, the fact that Agatha Christie had set one of her top selling novels on it? We wonder if it felt at all that she was breathing down your neck?

VH Obviously Murder on the Orient Express is one of the most famous and successful books in the world, but I didn’t feel as if I was in competition with Agatha Christie as they are very different books. They have in common the wonderful setting, and the fact that we both hold our characters captive somewhat, but my novel is much more relationship-based – I have no guns on board! I explore where the passengers are in their lives, what has made them come on the train, and how the journey affects their future. I also finish my book in Venice, where my characters alight, so there is much fun to be had there too.

TF In your book, you describe some of the terrific details of the coaches that make up the Orient Express. We are presuming you have had the chance to travel on it, and if so, we would love to hear about it.

VH It is the most extraordinary journey – captivating from start to finish. It’s like stepping back in time, as the carriages and cabins are all restored with exacting period detail. The dining cars, for example, are breathtaking – my favourite was the Renee Lalique, with its opalescent glass panels. The cabins themselves are exquisite, and so romantic -everything is thought of, and you have your own steward to tend to your every need. It’s like being in a little bubble, as you whizz your way down through Europe, reading, relaxing, eating, drinking, chatting – or in my case frantically scribbling down everything you see!

TF Where and when do you write?

VH At home, at the dining room table, where I have a lovely view of the sea. I try and keep office hours, but I often flip open the laptop at other times if inspiration strikes. Sometimes I go away for a few days and spend it in splendid isolation to get a big chunk under my belt – 20,000 words or so. I think a lot of writers employ the retreat method these days: life is so busy and it gets in the way of the creative flow. So a few days away when you can really focus without worrying about PE kits or what’s for supper are a treat.

TF What are your plans for your next book?

VH I’m in the early stages at the moment, just sketching out the characters and the storyline, but it will be set in Pennfleet, the Cornish town where The Long Weekend was set. Part of it is set in the early 60s and part of it now, and focusses on two women who have both been betrayed – but their faith in human nature is restored by what they find in Pennfleet. I know that sounds a bit vague, but it’s early days yet! Rest assured that it will be windswept and passionate and ultimately heartwarming.

TF When you have written the very last line of a book, what do you do to celebrate?

VH Sleep, drink a bottle of bubbly and catch up with my friends – one can become very anti-social in the throes of finishing a book, as it takes up all your concentration. And then I start thinking about the next book.

A big thank you to Veronica from Tina and the TripFiction Team!

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