From the hell of Flanders to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast – the love that lies between.

Jan 16th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Historical, Top Hat Books

That They Might Lovely Be is the sweeping evocative and engaging debut novel from David Matthews.  Beginning in a village in Kent, taking the reader from the hell of Flanders to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast, recounting a love affair which embraces the living and the dead.

It is a multi-layered literary novel stretching between the two World Wars but has a far wider scope: emotionally, geographically and historically. It is the story of Bertie Simmonds, whom no-one thought could speak. When he is heard singing an Easter hymn it is not so much the miracle some think as a bolt drawn back on a door, releasing long-repressed emotions with potentially devastating consequences. When, a decade later, Bertie marries Anstace a woman old enough to be his mother, another layer of mystery starts to peel away. Behind everything is her lyrical, multi-faceted love-affair which transcends every convention of the age.

Asked where the inspiration for the title come from David says,
“At the heart of the story is a boy who, for the first ten years or so of his life is an elective
mute. As the secrecy concerning his birth starts to disintegrate, he starts to speak. One
evening, he is heard singing an Easter hymn and the book’s title is a line from that hymn,
My Song is Love Unknown, the words by Samuel Crossman. Running throughout this
story is the question: what is truly lovely in a brutal world?

Extract from the novel

Monday, 12 August 1940

All day there had been dogfights high overhead. It was mid- afternoon when the rector’s wife stepped through the French windows into the garden. Bullets spattered down through the trees, ripping the turf around her feet yet leaving her unscathed. This, the second miracle of her life, turned her wits.

In the same hour, Delia Simmonds was about to wring the neck of a young cockerel ready for the pot while her father, the retired schoolmaster, was sitting on the old oak bench, resolutely ignoring the combat above the clouds. The squawking of the doomed bird was drowned out as a stricken aeroplane came screaming down from the sky toward them. They watched as it roared above the roof of their cottage, skimming the tops of the trees before ploughing straight into the South Lodge on the other side of the wood.

They heard the crash, but neither felt compelled to hurry along the lanes to see where it had hit the ground. News would reach them soon enough. They had inhabited the fringes of village life for some years now. As an accumulation of barnacles and weed gradually renders a vessel unseaworthy, so the steady accretion of gossip and suspicion, which had attached itself to the schoolmaster and his family since the tragic events ten years before, had made his position untenable. He had bought a small parcel of land in the woodlands and had a cottage built there for himself and his daughter.

As it happened, it could not have been ten minutes before a child came running up the path to the gate.

‘You’d best come, miss, sir. Plane’s crashed into the South Lodge. They’re saying your Bertie and Mrs. Cordingley’s inside but it’s all ablaze.’

Praise for That They Might Lovely Be 

“…a literary page-turner with a heart and a brain.” – Clare Chambers, author of In a Good Light, The Editor’s Wife

“brilliantly structured …a thought-provoking meditation on love and failures.” – Catherine Brennan, Poet, Beneath the Deluge

“David Matthews’ excellent first novel is about love unknown, about sin and its consequences, about grief and even about redemption. Although there is war, suicide, loneliness and despair, it is a deeply hopeful novel…a delight to read.” Fr Richard Peers, blogger, Director of Education in the Anglican diocese of Liverpool

That They Might Lovely Be is available as ebook and paperback from your favourite online stores via Top Hat Books

 

 

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