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In 2003, Susan Lanigan graduated from a Masters in Creative Writing in NUI Galway. Since then, she has had short stories published in The Stinging Fly, Southword, The Sunday Tribune, the Irish Independent, Nature, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mayo News. She has been thrice shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and longlisted and shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Contest, the Bristol Prize, the Raymond Carver Short Story Award and other competitions.
Loss, recovery and pervasive secrets from the past - this engrossing saga tells the page-turning tale of an unforgettable Jamaican woman from WW1 to 1950. From the author of White Feathers, Susan Lanigan’s Lucia’s War is an absorbing, twisting, historical saga about the memorable Lucia Percival who came to Britain from Jamaica and worked as a nurse during WW1 before becoming a celebrated opera singer. Lucia’s lively, sharp-witted narrative undulates and unfolds at spellbinding speed - coloratura style, to use an operatic term - as she relates her story to a music critic as she’s set to give her last performance in 1950. It’s impossible not to feel invested in Lucia’s life as the tale darts back and forth from her working in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in France in 1916, to her striving to live as a musician in London on returning from war, to her later trials, all the while living in the tight grasp of her past. Recalling her father’s words towards the end of the novel, Lucia notes, “The trouble with you, Lucia, is that you can do anything.’ Turned out my father was right, just not in the way he meant. I was capable of doing anything.” This facet of her character chimes throughout the novel, as does her connection to the gruff Scottish surgeon she encountered in France: “You come all the way from the West Indies to England on your own…I’ve never met anyone like you in all my damn life.” These words ring true, for Lucia is a one-of-a-kind woman, driven by a longing to mother the son who was taken from her, a longing that sees her agree to a plan concocted by old Lillian (“The Witch”), a woman similarly scarred by loss, and damaged by war. Revealing the contribution Caribbean commonwealth citizens made to Britain during WWI, and touching on the Spanish flu epidemic, at its heart this is the powerful story of a black woman in a white man’s world; a personal account of the ravages of war; the story of a woman torn. In Lucia’s words, “The two parts of me – musician versus mother, public versus private – were separating out so rapidly and so completely there seemed to be no way of reconciling the two.” While I wondered what impact the novel might have if it followed a strict chronological structure, it’s gripping stuff, and the final twist is likely to catch readers off-guard, hungry to know how the next acts of Lucia’s extraordinary life play out. A Piece of Passion from the Publisher... Susan Lanigan and I worked together on her first novel White Feathers, and the glorious Lucia Pervical stole every scene she appeared in. It was clear that she needed her own book. When Susan approached me to work on Lucia's War, I was honoured to work with her again and to be one of the first to find out What Lucia Did Next. Susan's such a passionate author – personally, politically and poetically – who infuses her characters and the world they inhabit with a rich vivid life. I learned so much about Black British culture and history from between the wars and fell in love with Lucia's lyricism and her resilience. Technically, the novel is a tour de force of non-linear narrative by a writer skilled at her craft: the various strands of Lucia’s past are deftly woven together like the baby’s blanket she carries with her everywhere. I bawled each one of the three times I read it through from beginning to end. Which is a professional quality-control test we editors sometimes do.
Don’t be tricked into thinking this is a ‘Cinderella’ story, the first part, so gently and simply told by the author, almost lulls you into a false sense of security before World War One sticks it’s fearsome and harrowing boot in. The age old tale of falling in love occurs on the brink of war, when much of the country, (before reality hit) fluttered and flirted with feelings of heroism, romance and enchantment. The controversial giving of white feathers to men not in uniform as a symbol of cowardice, skulks sinisterly in this storyline and is used as a form of blackmail, altering and changing lives forever. This is a story that promises, expands and heightens expectations before the truth of battle has it’s wickedly brutal way. Proving that assault and conflict can be cunningly insidious as well as glaringly obvious, this is an intense and stirring debut novel. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion from the Publisher... When the publisher asked me to edit Susan’s book, I jumped at the chance – the merest glance at the typescript revealed a writer of enormous talent, and I was struck by her beautiful turns of phrase. In Eva Downey, a nurse during the First World War and particularly the battle of the Somme, Susan has created a character of immense integrity. The moment when Eva finds her own courage and takes responsibility for her actions and for her life gave me goosebumps. Some of the most significant battles are fought, and won, within the home and the heart.' - Liz Hudson, Editor, O'Brien Press