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August Book Club - Spare Brides by Adele Parks

(129 Posts)
KatGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 01-Aug-14 09:17:57

The 200 winners should have their copies of Spare Brides by now, so if you got one (or indeed if you didn't and bought one anyway) do add your questions and comments for author Adele Parks.

There's still time for you to buy a copy and join in this month's Book Club. We will be sending the questions over to Adele at the end of August.

brg66 Mon 01-Sep-14 12:34:36

I hope I am not too late to have my question included.

I would like to ask Adele about the inspiration for this book and. as it seems to be very different from her other books, whether she enjoyed writing it more or less than the previous books

Thank you for your time

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 01-Sep-14 12:37:32


Not having commented on Gransnet for a while, please forgive my ignorance, but does Book Club only cover novels/fiction?

Hello railman

The answer is generally- but not necessarily. We want the books we feature in book club to have a narrative to discuss, but that doesn't mean that they have to be novels. Memoir or some non-fiction would work too and is something we also look at.

philatel Mon 01-Sep-14 14:41:24

Have just started reading Spare Brides - enjoying it very much so far.

granontherun Mon 01-Sep-14 15:06:23

Thanks for a good read Adele. I'm curious to know about your own feelings toward Edgar - do you like him? Is he modelled on someone you know?

stitchinggran Tue 02-Sep-14 11:09:32

Hi Adele, thanks for coming onto GN. I really enjoyed your book, and do particularly enjoy books about the war/post-war eras. I loved Ava's character probably because she was the most rebellious and modern-thinking. I also thought I would really dislike Lydia's character, but ended up feeling quite conflicted about her. Is it difficult to make characters so complex? Where did you get your inspiration from?

Twostep Tue 02-Sep-14 11:12:23

Hello. Did you enjoy writing a historical novel more or less than your other books?

I would assume the process differed quite a lot given the researc involved in writing historical fiction

neena Tue 02-Sep-14 14:14:51

Hi, I hope I am not too late to post my questions!

I really enjoyed the book, thank you. I would be interested to know(two questions if I may!):

1. Was it difficult to write a novel about a tragic issue while still maintaining a degree of lightheartedness?

2. How did you get to grips with the era and the people in order to portray it in such detail and transport the reader back in time? Who/ what was your inspiration for the topic?


carpathian Tue 02-Sep-14 17:36:01

Hi Adele would just like to say i am very much looking forward to starting your book this week when the kiddies are back at school ,looks totally my cup of tea and i am really looking forward to getting stuck in .

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 03-Sep-14 10:22:33

Questions going off today - answers soon!

Oldgreymare Fri 05-Sep-14 19:24:01

Too late! But I did enjoy the book, it revealed a different perspective of the damage done by WW1 to those who stayed behind, particularly the women. Each one had to come to terms with huge changes to their lives. The author was kind to the wealthy socialites, whilst allowing Lydia and Ava to question their values. Mrs Trent seemed rather stereotypical, as was the description of Edgar's physical attributes. His reaction to the horrors of war was really well handled and believable. A good read.

lilybet Fri 05-Sep-14 19:54:01

I bought this book after reading it was very good. Wrong! It is sending me to sleep. It has already been described as Mills&Boon I agree 100%. Not the best Adele Parks.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 09-Sep-14 15:13:34

Fab answers back from Adele - coming up very shortly!

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:20:07


I had two dearly loved Great Aunts (sisters) who were both badly affected by the first world war and the aftermath. One, was given syphilis by her returning husband (who died soon afterwards) and became blind as a result and eventually died 40 years later, suffering terrible tremors and other horrible effects.

The other never found a husband though she was a sweet, kind and lovable lady teacher. They lived together and made a life as best they could. I have such fond memories of them both.

My question to Adele is : Did you have anyone in your family affected by the war and did this have any bearing on your writing this book?

One of my great grandfathers fought in WW1. He came home with severe shell shock, which I understand haunted him for a long time, perhaps forever. Another great grandfather fought in the Boer Wars. Until I was sixteen years old I was lucky enough to have two great grandmothers in my life - the wives of these men - both of whom I was very close to. My great grandmother whose husband had fought in WW1 struck me as especially brave as not only did she see her husband go to war but all three of her sons saw action in WW2; wonderfully, all three survived. I have often thought about her experiences. Since her husband returned home with shell shock she probably had some idea about the brutality, cruelty and consequences of the war. It must have been terrifying for her to know her sons were about to face the same. My great grandmother who was married to the man who fought in the Boer wars lied about their ages on her wedding certificate; she added a few years on to her age and took a few off his. I think she must have been embarrassed by their age gap. I wonder whether the fact she married an older man was the consequence of there being far fewer men to pick from. Anyway, for all her initial embarrassment, he was apparently a marvellous husband, father and grandfather, sadly he died the year before I was born so I never met him.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:20:51


Spare Brides was a very topical choice in this year in which WW1 is so much in the news. I enjoyed reading it, but was rather disappointed by the gallop at the end in which the characters were sorted out for a happy ending so rapidly. Some sloppy editing eg Edgar's landlady wore a nylon housecoat although nylon not invented until 1935.
Would like to ask Adele Parks if she is planning a sequel Would like to know if the happy endings were long lasting?

I haven’t any plans for a sequel at the moment but I won’t rule out the possibility. I cared passionately about Lydia, Ava, Beatrice and Sarah, perhaps more than I’ve ever cared about any other characters I have ever created. I wanted to give the women of that time voices as I think their stories have been neglected. Lydia and her friends haven’t left me yet…so perhaps there might be a sequel one day. Certainly when I typed ‘The End’ of Spare Brides I believed that their happy endings would endure.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:22:06


Have now finished my copy. Not my usual sort of read but made a pleasant change. A good holiday read. The back ground to how people ( better off people ) coped after WW1 was interesting and as others have mentioned it linked well with recent commemorations. The ending was rather contrived but then I hate reading books with sad endings ( and I am sure I am not the only one) so what is an author to do????
Were any of the characters, e.g. Ava based on any real person?
Does Adelehave as equal in mind?

None of the characters were based on real people although I did do an extensive amount of research into the lives of women of that era; I read novels, newspapers, adverts, diaries and letters that were written during the war and in the early 1920s so I hope the voices of my characters are true and accurate to the time period. Ava was an amalgamation of various women I read about. There were a number of spirited, independent trailblazers who dared to work in business and even in contraceptive clinics (not that they were called that then!). I like to think there have always been women like Ava and that there always will be; ones with gumption, style and loyalty.

And as you'll see from my answer to purpledaffodil above, I haven’t any plans for a sequel at the moment - but I won’t rule out the possibility. I cared passionately about Lydia, Ava, Beatrice and Sarah, perhaps more than I’ve ever cared about any other characters I have ever created. I wanted to give the women of that time voices as I think their stories have been neglected. They haven’t left me yet…so perhaps there might be a sequel one day.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:22:43


I finished mine this morning. With the title 'Spare Brides', I was expecting the story to be about more ordinary women who were left on the shelf due to a lack of men after WW1, rather than rather spoilt socialites. It is really only Bea who is 'spare' and who I had any sympathy with. Also felt for Cecily but for different reasons.

I did find it a bit heavy going until Edgar turned up and then it was fairly obvious which way the story was going to go although I didn't expect them to sail off to Australia at the end!

I would like to ask Adele what made her chose the title 'Spare Brides' and also what research she did for Edgar's vivid memories of the war

I wanted a title that hinted at the agony of being considered a ‘surplus woman’, a woman not wanted by her country or loved by an individual man. The word Bride is one we normally associate with promise, anticipation and a fresh start, I hoped that combining the usually positive noun with the term ‘surplus’ might be arresting.

I read a lot of novels, newspapers, non-fiction books and poems written during WW1 to give me insight into the horrors of war and help imagine Edgar’s experiences. Two very useful non-fiction sources were Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain and Now it can be Told by Philip Gibbs.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:23:22


"Spare Brides " was an unexpected enjoyable book, not my usual reading matter. Being such a young author I wondered were Adele drew her story from ?and the happy ending was a pleasure, also being a northern lass, I enjoyed the local references.

Men’s history is in history books. Women’s history is often passed on verbally, finding life in the head and hearts of their offspring. I came from a family of story tellers (whether they are aware of that or not!). In Spare Brides I wanted to tell the stories of not only the four women I’ve invented, but of a generation of women who endured the unimaginable with such beautiful dignity. Hundreds of thousands of them never married as a direct consequence of the war. They didn’t have children or grandchildren so their stories were not passed on. Their disappointments and suffering, their dreams and achievements were silenced. Forgotten. Obviously I had to depend on a lot of research. I was fascinated to discover that the first civilian casualties occurred in Hartlepool. Researching was like wading through an Aladdin’s cave of treasure; there were so many inspiring stories.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:24:56


Have not finished the book but enjoying it so far.

I'd like to know what made Adele choose to write this book, it is so different to other books she has written and was it more difficult to write because of that?

I think the very fact that WW1 is rarely discussed from a female view point was an incredibly compelling factor for me in deciding to write this novel. I like to take a look at things we think we know from a different angle. I used to think of WW1 as remote, masculine and unfathomable. When I was 13 I went on a school trip to France and visited some of the graves of the men that died in battles, there were literally tens of thousands of them. I was struck by the uniformity but, at the time, I didn’t think of that as interestingly equalitarian (which I do now understand and value) I thought it was simply overwhelming. The men the graves honoured remained inaccessible. It was only four or five years ago that I started to think about the stories behind the gravestones and then not the men alone. As a writer who has always been most interested in women’s psychology, women’s stories and experiences I started to think about the wives, lovers, mothers and daughters connected to the men in the graves. The women the men left behind. I’ve always been interested in survival and rebuilding, a reoccurring theme in many of my novels, that’s what I wanted to concentrate on - putting the pieces back together after a catastrophe. In the past I’ve stuck to writing about domestic catastrophes, like infidelity, illness or abandonment, this novel is obviously on a much more ambitious scale. Although this is a departure I’m very certain that this is the novel I have always wanted to write I now know WW1 to be infinitely fascinating, heart-breaking and gripping.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:25:27


I enjoyed reading Spare Brides, yet again a book I would not have chosen but it hooked me in and I began to care for the characters and their stories (thank you Gransnet for the opportunity!)

I was also interested to have a draft copy of a book, I've never seen a novel at this stage of publication. What is the next stage? Is there any feedback to the author or are any changes made before the final copy of the book is released?

I would like to ask Adele how long the whole process of producing this novel took and how many hours per day she devotes to writing or research.

I started thinking about writing Spare Brides some years ago, perhaps as many as five and have been reading around the subject in my free time for about three years. Once I sat down to start writing it took me about 11 months. I wrote and/or researched a minimum of five days a week for at least six hours, often a lot more.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:26:00


Thank you for the book. I am surprised to read that a lot of people here weren't too thrilled with it. I really enjoyed it, I liked the characters.
Adele, this is a completely different theme for you and I think you managed it really well.I suspect it took you out of your 'Comfort Zone' Did you enjoy writing it? Were you afraid that your usual readers might not like it, or do you have to banish such thoughts when you are embarking on an entirely different theme ?..Good Girl..I loved it !

Thank you very much! I did enjoy writing it! Enormously so, I was also terrified. You’re right; I did deliberately take myself out of my comfort zone. In my opinion, a comfortable writer is unlikely to be a particularly honest or good one. I felt I needed to take the risk of trying something new rather than risk repeating thoughts or themes and boring my readers! It’s true that one can’t please all the people all the time, writers should never try to please anyone but themselves; it’s the only way to write anything compelling, truthful or thought provoking.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:29:06


I enjoyed this book a great deal-the four main characters were introduced seamlessly and each with a clear,engaging personality.
Yes,there were a few little anomalies but the book was evocative of the era.I think it is a great commentary on the times and especially the changing role of women within it.The class barriers were just beginning to blur at this time;along with the loss of so many young men,it meant women had to find new roles and had more freedom to do so.I especially liked the fact that Ava's father took her into his business.He would not even have thought of it until Lydia pointed out to him that Ava would be a major asset!
Very readable,this was my first Adele Parks book.I shall be looking out for her earlier books to read.
I would like to ask Adele if there will be a sequel to this novel,as I would love to follow the women's stories.

See my answer to question 2 (“I haven’t any plans for a sequel at the moment but I won’t rule out the possibility. I cared passionately about Lydia, Ava, Beatrice and Sarah, perhaps more than I’ve ever cared about any other characters I have ever created. I wanted to give the women of that time voices as I think their stories have been neglected. They haven’t left me yet…so perhaps.”)

But quite a few people have asked me this and so I’m becoming increasingly tempted!

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:29:51


Thank you for the book which I enjoyed. I would like to ask Adele about the phenomenon of "chick lit" and how she felt to be labelled into the genre. I have noticed it is more often decsribed as "women's fiction" these days. Does she prefer this title and is the change because all the original "chicks" are growing older?

I’m not a fan of the term chic-lit as I feel it’s dismissive, sexist and misleading. I’ve always written about serious issues and concerns; just because they are contemporary women’s issues that doesn’t make them less serious but somehow the label chic-lit implies as much. I don’t think I was any more comfortable with the term when I was younger but perhaps I didn’t have the confidence to speak out against it. Men who write about relationships might find themselves on the Booker Prize long list, women who write about relationships are dismissed as chic-lit and holiday reads; it’s frustrating.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:31:08


I really enjoy your books. What tips would you offer to an aspiring writer?

a) My first big tip for writing a novel is ‘get writing’. So many people say to me that they want to write a novel but in fact never write anything longer than a shopping list! Try to write something every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes and even if you’re not in the mood. If you’re stuck for something to write about set yourself tasks, such as describing what you can see if you look out of the window, or your earliest memory or how a new dish tastes. It doesn’t matter what you write, or even if you ever use the exercises in your big novel, it simply develops discipline.

b) Have fun. It shows. If you don't enjoy what you're writing, no reader will enjoy reading it.

c) Read a lot because reading is essential for all good writers.

d) You’ll need a big fat book called THE WRITERS AND ARTISTS YEARBOOK. It's published annually and lists every UK and Irish publisher and agent, plus it offers some guidance as to which genre the agent is interested in. This book also gives tips on how to present your work to attract agents (or at least how to avoid offending them!)

e) Try showing someone your work but don’t take offence at any comments they make. Remember you asked them, they’re doing you a favour reading it and it’s a difficult job. Be humble. Accept both praise and criticism with an equally open mind and act upon them where necessary.

f) Finally, develop a thick skin. Chances are you will get some knock backs along the way but don’t ever give up hope. If you have a talent and you are persistent it will pay off eventually, I promise. Some of the reasons for rejections are because an agent’s books are full, or your work is too similar to another author or not like the other authors that particular agent represents! A rejection doesn't necessarily mean that your work isn’t any good. Be realistic. Remember that there are thousands of new titles published every year. For every one of these that is published agents and publishers, read and reject over 100 manuscripts (sometimes as many as 500). These are the odds. Don't give up - but don't expect instant success either.

Nothing is impossible, and not much is near-impossible, so you’ve only failed when you quit!

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:31:44


I hope I am not too late to have my question included.

I would like to ask Adele about the inspiration for this book and. as it seems to be very different from her other books, whether she enjoyed writing it more or less than the previous books

Thank you for your time

In some ways this book was harder to write than any previous novel. I couldn’t take anything for granted and had to research endlessly. I have always written contemporary women’s fiction and so this is quite definitely a departure. Writing and launching this novel felt a lot like writing my debut. I’ll admit I was excited and terrified. There’s a lot at stake as, by changing genre, I’ve laughed in the face of the trusted idiom, ‘If it ain’t broke why fix it?’. However, the way I constructed the novel and characters was a similar process to that which I’ve always used, only the research methods were very different. I’ve been thrilled with the reviews that have complimented me on my historical accuracy and authenticity; that was very important to me.

AdeleParks Tue 09-Sep-14 15:32:15


Thanks for a good read Adele. I'm curious to know about your own feelings toward Edgar - do you like him? Is he modelled on someone you know?

I adore Edgar. I’m very much in love with him. He’s strong, brave, bold and intelligent but he also has a vulnerability and humanity that makes him complex and compelling. He’s made mistakes and because of the time he was born into he isn’t the sort of man that finds it easy to talk things through, I find that very intriguing. I’m from the NE of England. My father’s family are from Middlesbrough (like Edgar’s) and they owned fish and chip shops (not a corner shop). Edgar isn’t like anyone in particular in my family but he is homage to a particular sort of man; the strong and silent type. I must confess I had a great uncle who was physically built like Edgar Trent and his name was Edgar. I borrowed that detail.