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Talking location with Anne Allen – Guernsey

4th December 2016

#TalkingLocationWith… Author Anne Allen shares her love of Guernsey with us.

For me, it was a no-brainer to set my first novel, ‘Dangerous Waters’, in Guernsey. I had moved there with my three not-so-keen children in 1988 after falling in love with the island the year previously. Although part of Great Britain, it’s not in the UK and has close links with France, having once been part of the fiefdom of the Duke of Normandy, a mere fourteen miles away across the Channel. Hence most of the old Guernsey family names are French as are those of the streets. Local surnames such as Batiste, Le Page and Bougourd abound and in Town (St Peter Port) street names include Le Pollet, Le Bordage, and Hauteville. There’s an immediate sense of ‘foreignness’ we Brits love and value when we set off on holiday.

talking location with anne allen - guernsey

I loved the time I lived on the island – nearly fourteen years – returning reluctantly to England in 2002. My elder son still lives there, and I’d made many friends so continue to pop over at least once a year. I think, for me, in writing ‘Dangerous Waters’, I was paying homage to a place I loved dearly and wanted others to learn about and, hopefully, visit. At the time there was no plan to write a series of books set on the island, but it crept up on me and morphed into The Guernsey Novels by the third book.

The initial inspiration for my first book was a story by Joanne Harris, ‘Coastliners’, set on a tiny French island and featuring a young woman returning home after many years absence. Although this island was nothing like Guernsey, it stirred up the memories. In ‘Dangerous Waters’ I added an unsolved family tragedy, recent relationship breakup and an old cottage with a secret. I had been a psychotherapist for many years and experienced at close quarters how people reacted to and coped with tragedy.

I didn’t need to research the setting for my books as I’d come to know the island well, but there are so many hidden back lanes I don’t think anyone could have explored all of them. When writing, I keep a copy of ‘Perry’s Guide, the official Channel Island Guide to Guernsey’, at hand, so I don’t get lost or misquote a street name.

My stories are set in contemporary Guernsey and offer short excursions to the neighbouring islands of Herm, Sark and Jersey, but there is always a reference to WWII and the German Occupations of the islands. The Occupation has had a generational impact on the Islanders and forms part of their psyche, even if born long after the event. There is an abundance of documents and books covering the Occupation, and I’ve completed more research with each book and was lucky enough to talk to a lady who lived through the war as well as being honoured with the gift of personal journals.

talking location with anne allen - guernseyGuernsey is well provided with restaurants, bars, cafés and hotels and I make reference to real ones by name in my books. Naturally, I’ve enjoyed their hospitality, all in the name of research! For example, my favourite restaurant when I lived there was DaNello’s, in Le Pollet, a beautiful Italian eaterie offering a wonderful ambience to complement the food. A fun place to eat, particularly for families, is Crabby Jacks at Vazon on the west coast, where you can eat Sunday lunch all day on Sundays.

If you are interested in something more cultural, then don’t miss Victor Hugo’s house in Hauteville, it’s a masterpiece in theatrical design and is as it was when the great man lived there in the 19th century when temporarily barred from France. He finished Les Miserables while in residence as well as other works. Castle Cornet defends St PeterPort and is well worth a visit, housing a museum which charts its history from the 13th century. Another, more modern museum, can be found in Candie Gardens in St Peter Port and is surrounded by beautiful gardens including a restored Victorian glasshouse.

Thank you to Anne for sharing ‘her’ Guernsey with us.

You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and via her website. You can buy her books here.

And do come and connect with Team TripFiction via Twitter (@tripfiction), Facebook (TripFiction), Instagram (TripFiction) and Pinterest (TripFiction)… and now YouTube

For more books set in Guernsey, click here

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  1. User: Anne Allen

    Posted on: 05/12/2016 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks for offering me the chance to tell everyone why I think Guernsey makes not only a great location for books but also holidays. You won’t be disappointed, I promise ☺