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I am often asked what made me write When Sorrows Come, especially as it’s my first novel which I began to work on when I retired from teaching. Although I started to write it when I was 59 years old, I can say, in all honesty, that I have wanted to write a novel since I was a little girl. I have tried from time to time but it was not until my children had left home and not until I gave up teaching that I could discipline myself to take up the task.villageI began with the short oral history I had heard of an old friend of my father’s on whom Anna is loosely based. I met this woman very briefly as a fragile old lady when I visited my father’s village in Western Ukraine for the first time. My father introduced me to her and later told me her story in a few sentences: As a young woman she had helped the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrainska Povstanska Armiya) by taking food to them; she had once brought the village doctor at gunpoint to treat a wounded partisan; she was betrayed, tortured and deported to Siberia.So began When Sorrows Come.

I wasn’t sure how to move on from the germ of this idea, so I wrote down all the other oral histories I knew from my family and the families of my Ukrainian friends. And then I started to read about Stalin. I thought I knew how evil he’d been, but I did not! As I read, I became hypnotised by his wickedness and found myself returning, in the evenings, after hours spent reading and researching, to the balm of Victorian novelists – Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, the Brontes – to soothe myself with the known world where goodness is rewarded. And beyond the two types of research, the rest is fiction. I found that I really enjoyed the creative aspects of my historical novel: Anna’s progress; Hrichko’s sudden re-appearance as a guide for those escaping from the Nazis; Sophia’s growing malevolence. I was surprised and delighted to find that it is true that a writer’s characters can take over. And they do! Mine were often cleverer than me, taking me to places I hadn’t anticipated visiting. When Sorrows Come is a sad story, harrowing at times, but it is no exaggeration of what happened in Halychyna during World War II.map6 I felt it was a story which must be told and I was concerned to get it right for all the millions, literally, of people whose lives had been forever altered by those twin devils, Hitler and Stalin. The events in the penultimate chapter happened to many women and I know readers find the final paragraphs very distressing. So did I. I wept as I wrote those words.

The novel would have ended with the train travelling east had not a very dear, and very intelligent, friend of mine, Dr Joy Sullivan, advised me to temper the tragedy with a grain of hope. So I wrote the final chapter and set it after Perestroika when hope for an independent and democratic Ukraine was emerging. Now, in 2014, there are fears again for this independent and democratic Ukraine and I hope my book helps a little in contextualising the current troubles. I was born in England and feel enormous gratitude for the life I’ve led in Britain, but my heart and soul are Ukrainian. So I hope readers, too, find that they are touched by the sorrows experienced by so many in Western Ukraine.

'Exquisitely observed detail....inspirational at every turn. Shocking, compelling and deeply moving, this thought-provoking novel will stay with you long after the last page.' The Historical Novel Society Review.

'Compelling and evocative historical début novel set in western Ukraine during the Second World War. Anna’s family is torn apart by the brutality of Stalin’s troops . ' The Bookseller February 2015