Many years ago, I researched my Polish family history and made some extraordinary discoveries about my ancestors. I wrote about it for the Edinburgh Review.
Some of those discoveries found their way into The Amber Heart, although it took me many years and many drafts to write it! It is a big family saga with a powerful love story at its heart and has been described as a ‘Polish Gone With the Wind’. The novel is set in the countryside where my father was born and spent his early childhood, not far from the city of Lemburg (later Lwow and now Ukrainian Lviv) when the region was part of the Austro Hungarian empire, in the middle years of the 19th century.
Maryanna is a Polish landowner’s pampered daughter, born and brought up in the beautiful ‘pancake yellow’ house of Lisko, while Piotro is a poor Ukrainian estate worker. The lives of these two people from vastly different backgrounds are, against all the odds, destined to become hopelessly entwined from the fatal moment of their first meeting.
‘Stefan took a pouch from his jacket and scattered coins as though scattering grain, watching them spread out and dive, hunting among grasses, squabbling volubly, fighting for what they could find, like so many starlings. But one of them didn’t move. He was the tallest and the oldest, a boy of perhaps eleven, his hair black and matted, his face sallow under the grime, his eyes an unexpectedly bright cornflower blue. He stood still, hands hanging by his sides, fists clenched, and he stared up at Maryanna, unsmiling, unmoving. She shifted uneasily. For perhaps the first time in her life, she saw a gaze of pure resentment directed straight at herself. She turned her head into her father’s jacket.
“Daddy, tell the boy not to look at me,” she whispered.’
An inauspicious beginning for both of them, this is only the start of what will become a passionate and ultimately tragic relationship. The novel – romantic in its wider sense of heroic and adventurous – is an epic tale of enduring affection against all the odds, set against a rich historical background.
‘An excellent holiday read or for any other time you want to lose yourself in a good book’ – Indie Bookworm.