In the summer of 1951 when Michael Jenkins was fourteen-years old he stayed with a French family in Flanders. In A House in Flanders Michael Jenkins, British ambassador to the Netherlands from 1988 to 1993 amongst many other diplomatic duties, tells the remarkable story of spending a summer with “the aunts in Flanders”. These aunts were in fact a group of elderly women whose connection to the family was somewhat tenuous but who embraced him nonetheless. With the memories of two world wars hanging over this new home and the unravelling of the secret at the heart of this family, Michael Jenkins tells of the summer that changed his life in evocative detail. He writes:
I was fourteen when I first came to the house on the edge of the plain. Some epidemic at school had, as was not unusual in those days, closed the establishment in the early summer, and my parents took the opportunity to despatch me for several months to ‘the aunts in Flanders’, mythical creatures as far as I was concerned, who had last been visited, I believe, by my father some time in the Thirties. Despite a French ancestry on my mother’s side we were not related to the family and my parents had always been vague, deliberately I now think, about the origins of our connection with them.
A House in Flanders is a vivid record of life amongst the various personalities whose lives are scarred by memories of the war. Don’t trust us, here are some of the people who have been most affected by A House in Flanders:
“There are some books, not necessarily the longest, in which the author’s intention is so perfectly realised, a seminal experience of life so beautifully recorded that the book becomes a small icon to be treasured not only on the shelf of a personal library, but in the mind.” – P. D. James, ‘Slightly Foxed’
“Artfully adds up to a portrait of a family, a time and a place … A very charming memoir.” – Penelope Lively, ‘The New York Times’
“This is a radiant book … A Whole spectrum of colours and lights, of delights and elegances, of wistfulness and love.” – Dirk Bogarde, ‘Daily Telegraph’
Published today, you can get your copy here: http://amzn.to/2nas5po