Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Debut Spotlight: Sara Alexander

Today it's my stop on Sara Alexander's blog tour for her debut novel Under a Sardinian Sky which is out this Thursday. 

Sara Alexander has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much loved productions such as Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow.

Growing up in North West London, Sara attended Hampstead Comprehensive School, before going on to graduate the University of Bristol with a BA honours in Theatre, Film & Television, and Drama Studio London with a postgraduate diploma in acting.

She now returns to her Sardinian routes through the pages of her debut novel Under a Sardinian Sky.

I grew up in London but spent all my childhood summers in Sardinia, an Italian island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Those dusty streets hold many happy memories for me, as do the crystalline coves I splashed around in for hours at a time, carefree. 

I lived with the shadow of my aunt Carmela trailing my peripheral as long as I can remember. She died when my mother was twelve. Carmela’s body was discovered by another sister and my grandmother, face down in a few inches of water by the riverbank near their town. Inquiries dragged on for five gruelling years. Witnesses presented evidence only to retract it at a later date. The truth was never uncovered. My grandparents never recovered. Many believe the boyfriend she broke up with, a few weeks before her death, to be guilty of murder. I have been haunted by the lack of resolution, knowing her death was the reason my mother and her siblings moved to London, where I was born. I felt indebted to her, morbidly perhaps, for my own life. 

I have felt an affinity with her since I can remember. The family would describe her as a woman of great energy, a flair for creation (she was a talented seamstress), with a passion for music and dance. All attributes I can relate strongly to. I had a great need to exorcise her ghost in as creative a way possible. I considered, for many years, retelling the tragedy. But I realised I was driven by the need to re-write her story. I wanted to flesh out her bones. I wanted to breathe life where there was a gaping hole. I didn’t want to only explore the pain shrouding her life but imagine who she might have been. 

Whilst Carmela inspired the story, it is very much an ode to all the colourful characters in my Sardinian clan, of which I am very proud to be part. I hope the book brings a little Sardinian sunshine to the folks who read it and perhaps a glimpse of what life might have felt like in the post war reawakening of a small seaside town on an island surrounded by turquoise sea, dotted with ancient ruins, vast expanses of forests inland, that, to this day, may still inhabited by those dabble in magic…. 

Under a Sardinian Sky by actress and author Sara Alexander is out 20th April (HQ, £7.99)

Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most powerful secrets.

For Mina, a London-based travel writer, the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession.

Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.

In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh.

Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love.

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