Michelle Gable’s “Bookseller’s Secret” is her new novel about author Nancy Mitford, whom she greatly admires.
“I’ve been a longtime Nancy Mitford fan, but I became obsessed with the entire Mitford clan after reading ‘The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family’ by Mary S. Lovell,” the bestselling writer said. based in San Diego.
The story follows Mitford’s adventures as manager of a London bookstore during World War II – with spies, infamous sisters, and romance. Intertwined within is a modern-day tale of the search for Mitford’s lost wartime manuscript.
“I could mumble for hours about the stunning Mitford girls,” Gable said. Nancy the novelist was one of six sisters-in-law with very distinct, even controversial personalities: Pamela the compatriot, Diana the fascist (and the most hated woman in England), Unity the confidante of Hitler, Jessica the communist and Deborah the Duchess of Devonshire. ”
Gable’s best-selling books include “A Paris Apartment” and “I’ll See You in Paris”. Gable, who lives in Cardiff with his family, will be part of a panel of authors sponsored by Adventures by the Book on Friday.
Question: Who was Nancy Mitford and how does she relate to Heywood Hill Bookstore?
A: Nancy Mitford is a British author who worked at Heywood Hill during the war. At the time, she had published four books but was relatively unknown. His fifth book, “The Pursuit of Love,” came out at the end of the war. It was a huge success and made her a household name.
Question: Who is Katie Cabot, and why did you want to write two stories?
A: Unlike the characters in the historical parts of the novel, Katie is entirely fictional. All of my books have a dual timeline – I love the challenge! In this case, Katie played a very specific role. Although we have very different backgrounds, Katie shares a lot of my angst as a writer. She helped me resolve many frustrations, to the point where my agent and editor asked me to alleviate them!
Question: What surprised you about Nancy Mitford?
A: The Mitfords offer endless surprises, although I knew most of them beforehand. I hadn’t realized that “The Pursuit of Love” was Nancy’s first hit, and it was especially poignant that we were both agonizing over what to write for our fifth book. Her decades-long romance with a French politician was also surprising, as well as the fact that our husbands look exactly alike.
Question: Is it a mystery?
A: I don’t consider this to be a mystery, but, as with my previous books, there is an element of mystery. My characters are always looking for something, literally or metaphorically.
Question: What is your favorite Nancy Mitford book?
A: “The pursuit of love”, hands down. Humor! The heart! I like that it is based on his own childhood and his family. At the center of it all is the monstrous and wonderful “Uncle Matthew”, inspired by Nancy’s father.
Question: Which character or real person did you enjoy writing the most?
A: This is by far the most difficult question! Nancy has had a rich cast of characters in her life, from family members to fellow writers and friends. Hypochondriac Edwin “Hellbags” Sackville-West was a lot of fun. It was a man who considered his body to be a hive swarming with malicious bees. “Hellbags” was a real person, but there isn’t a lot of writing about him, so I enjoyed filling out the sketch of what is known.
If I had to pick one person it would be the unbearable and hilarious Evelyn Waugh. He was a real jerk, and it was great to make sarcastic remarks or share some horrible comments that he had really said. He could be downright cruel to Nancy, like saying that she had written half a good book, but that there was a deep and deep connection between them. Evelyn’s voice was so clear to me; I could practically hear him laughing at me from across the room.
Question: Which two books are on your summer “to read” list?
A: Steven Rowley’s “The Guncle” will be my next read. I’m a huge fan of the author and love the concept – a gay uncle becomes the guardian of his niece and nephew – as well as the Palm Springs executive. In real life and on the page, Rowley has a sharp mind, a la Nancy Mitford. For historical fiction, I’m delighted to read Kristin Harmel’s “Forest of Missing Stars”. I love all of Kristin’s books and am always interested in the less explored stories of WWII.
Michelle Gable’s “Bookseller’s Secret” (Graydon House, 2021; 400 pages)
Book Adventures presents Michelle Gable
When: 11:30 am Friday August 27
Or: Hosted by Adventures by the Book: Summer Picnic Adventure with multiple authors. Encinitas Park will be disclosed when purchasing the ticket.
Tickets: Cost varies
Telephone: (619) 300-2532
In line: adventuresbythebook.com/event/summer-picnic/