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Novel set in Goa and London (“quite simply a lovely read”)

29th August 2015

The Elephant Girl by Henriette Gyland, novel set in Goa and London.

Quite simply a lovely read. A mixture of love story, whodunit, with imaginative and intriguing twists and turns.

IMG_1503The story focuses on Helen – or Yelena as she was originally named, following her as she moves back from Goa to London, summoned back by her step grandmother Aggie. Although the locations are a part of the story, they are not that important in terms of unduly influencing the tale.

The young Helen was present when her mother was murdered. Due to her epilepsy, she had no clear memory of what actually happened. Fay, a friend of her mother was imprisoned for 20 years for the murder – unable to remember what had occurred, or more importantly if she had actually committed the murder.

Author photo - Henriette Gyland

Henriette Gyland

Helen manages to track her down and moves into the house she shares with other ex-cons, run by Jason who sees it his duty to give others a chance at becoming part of society again.

Despite the co-incidences in the tale, involving Jason, his father and Helen’s family, it is a very readable book. Helen is increasingly convinced that it was not Fay who murdered her mother, following instinct and new revelations to discover the truth.

Henriette writes compassionately about epilepsy and the effects it has on sufferers, touching on how it affects those around them.

I very much recommend that you read this novel.

KAGA for the TripFiction Team

Henriette agreed to answer our questions, so here goes:


TF: This is an engrossing story with twists and turns and epilepsy at the heart. You have done a great job in sympathetically bringing this condition into the public eye. How did you come to choose epilepsy?

HG: Epilepsy is a so-called hidden disability, and there’s very little literature where the condition is described in sympathetic terms. In history Caesar, Pope Pius IX, Napoleon, and Joan of Arc were reputed to suffer from seizures, or the “falling sickness”, but in fiction it’s often used as a way of explaining a complex and sometimes even megalomaniac personality (e.g. King Stephen in The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett).

I wanted a sympathetic heroine to illustrate that completely ordinary individuals have to live with this sometimes debilitating condition. I also wanted a heroine who doesn’t allow epilepsy to define her.

On the other hand, from a purely writerly perspective, it also made a fantastic plot point in the story – the child who witnesses a terrible crime while experiencing a seizure, and then growing up wondering whether she can actually trust her own mind.

TF:  You have chosen interesting and very different locations for the book. What drew you to them in particular and what research did you carry out?

HG: There are two locations in the novel: a couple of chapters are set in Goa in India, and the rest of the book in the Shepherd’s Bush area of London. I chose Goa because the main character Helen wants to be as far away from home as she can get and still survive on limited means. Also, living abroad stops her from having to face up to who and what she truly is. And the setting in a halfway house in Shepherd’s Bush (an area I know well) symbolises the halfway point between what happened in the past and how events in the present day will help her come to terms with herself.

TFYou are clearly interested in relationships and families, and in this novel there are fractured family dynamics, strikingly well observed. You must spend a lot of time observing and taking mental notes as you go about your daily life?

HG: This may sound strange, but I really enjoy reading agony aunt columns in magazines and newspapers. Or even reading magazines with real-life stories. The whole of humanity is represented there if one can look beyond the sensationalism. I also love people-watching (or even people-listening, and many of the issues I tackle in my books come from conversations overheard on the bus!). I think as a writer it’s hard not to be an amateur psychologist – after all, writing fiction is really about what makes people tick whatever their background.

TF:  What are you working on at the moment and will location be part of the story?

HG: I’m currently working on another novella, set in the county Norfolk like my first sweet romance novella, and yes, Norfolk is very much part of the story, as is the main character’s circus background.

TFAny travel plans for this Summer?

HG: I’ve just returned from a fabulous week on the Côte d’Azur with my family and my sister and her family. Together we rented a house with its own pool (oh, I could get used to that!), and my batteries have been thoroughly recharged.

I also have a two day trip to Bath lined up where I intend to do some research into the Georgian period, in preparation for writing, in the not-so-distant, a follow-up to my 3rd novel, The Highwayman’s Daughter.

TF What books are in your TBR pile?

HG: A lot!! But just to mention a few, The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts, set in France during the revolution, Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle, about Lady Jane Grey’s two younger sisters, Red Station, a high-octane thriller by Adrian Magson, and just to be completely different, Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami. I’m looking forward to get stuck in.

Thank you to Henriette for joining us! Henriette now lives in London but grew up in Northern Denmark and moved to England after she graduated from the University of Copenhagen. She wrote her first book when she was ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express.

Between that first literary exploit and now, she has worked in the Danish civil service, for a travel agent, a consultancy company, in banking, hospital administration, and for a county court before setting herself up as a freelance translator and linguist. Expecting her first child and feeling bored, she picked up the pen again, and when a writer friend encouraged her to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association, she began to pursue her writing in earnest. Her debut Up Close won the New Talent Award in 2011 from the Festival of Romance and a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize.

Henriette’s novels include: Up Close, The Elephant Girl, Blueprint for Love and The Highwayman’s Daughter. And you can follow her on TwitterFacebook and check out her website

And of course join us for more literary travels on Social Media: TwitterFacebookPinterest, and when we have some interesting photos, we can be found over on Instagram too.




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  1. User: Shriya

    Posted on: 02/09/2015 at 4:51 pm

    Excellent Q&A!
    It’s really rare reading about Epilepsy in fiction, should be done more to be honest. I can’t wait to read this book asap. As a fellow Epileptic it would be an interesting read for sure.


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 02/09/2015 at 5:20 pm

      It will be really interesting to hear your view – do bet back to us when you are done!


  2. User: Henriette Gyland

    Posted on: 01/09/2015 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you so much for a wonderful review. You really made my day!


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