A great feeling of support and jubilation was evident at the launch of Summertime, Marlborough resident Vanessa Lafaye’s first published novel.
As if in homage to the novel set in a steamy Florida summer, the temperature on Friday 23 January pulled itself up from freezing and headed towards a warmer, rainy night as the 1930s-dressed guests gathered for the celebration at Marlborough town hall.
As a veteran of many a launch, books and otherwise, it was probably the friendliest I’ve ever been too.
The guest list wasn’t led by eminent but faceless critics (who may or may not show) and a rent-a-launch mob but a town hall full of local well-wishers, friends and family – and a medical team.
“I’m so glad to be here,” said Vanessa. “The last nine months have been so hard.”
For most novelists that would have meant writing and revising a novel, securing a publishing deal then promoting it. But for Vanessa it also meant fighting cancer. “The medical team saved my life. It was really important to have them here tonight.”
Also on the guest list were Mother’s Jam, Marlborough Community Choir and Marlborough Big Band, who all performed. Marlborough High Street retailers, White Horse Bookshop, were on hand to sell Summertime hardbacks.
“This book is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life except marry James and start Marlborough Community Choir,” said Vanessa to much cheering. “I wanted to get you all here tonight just to say a big thank you.”
The novel is a fictionalised account of the devastating but now largely forgotten 1935 Labour Day hurricane which hit the Florida coastline. As well as flattening a town, it also killed hundreds of WW1 veterans living out in appalling and vulnerable conditions whilst working on a government construction project. In Summertime the turbulent weather is mirrored by the tension between men and women, black and white, locals and veterans.
Vanessa grew up in Florida but has lived in the UK for over twenty years, however it wasn’t until she moved away from the US that she happened to stumble upon the story of the Labour Day storm. “I felt compelled to dramatise it and make it my mission to make more people aware of what happened to these people…there are so many resonances with events today and things going on with society now.”
Vanessa secured a deal with Orion Books for a ‘good five figure sum,’ said the major publishing house.
Summertime is available at White Horse Bookshop (and other major outlets) and is out now. The paperback goes on sale this July.