The Last Summer with Judith Kinghorn
Judith Kinghorn chats over a cuppa and a cake today, author of The Last Summer, historical fiction set in England
The Last Summer has been compared to the television series Downton Abbey and to the novel, Atonement. Do you mind the comparisons and do you agree with them?
I’m very flattered to be compared to such a well-loved and popular television series, and particularly flattered to be compared to such a great novel. But I’m not sure The Last Summer is like either. Any similarity between my novel and Downton Abbey is, I think, more to do with the period and the setting – the English country house. And comparisons to Atonement are perhaps more about the storyline of love between the classes: Atonement is set in WW2, The Last Summer in WW1; and they’re very different stories. But as I say, I’m very flattered!
In an interview, I remember you saying that reading Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca was an inspiration to you in writing the novel. What was it about Rebecca that inspired you?
It was really to do with the (unknown) narrator. I think this is a crucial element in Rebecca’s success and in the tension of the novel. After reading it, I knew I had to write a first person narrative; a story with an intimacy that would take the reader into the mind (and heart) of the narrator, and immerse them in a particular time and place… so that they could live it, see it.
I loved The Last Summer. Was Deyning Park based on anywhere in particular? Even though I have imagined it via locations I’ve been to (see yesterday’s blog post) I would love to go to the place which inspired it!
The actual house doesn’t exist and isn’t based on anywhere in particular, but the location does exist – and isn’t far from where I live.
I knew before I began writing the novel where I wanted the house to be. So, in my mind’s eye, I laid out the grounds – the lake, the island, the walled garden and pleasure gardens – just as though I was painting a landscape, albeit one I knew, and then, finally, I placed the house there and gave it its name! It looks out over the South Downs, to the east of Midhurst in West Sussex.
Who might play Clarissa in a movie? In a film of the book, who do you imagine playing your characters?
Oh my. I’ve been asked this before but I really have no idea. I think, I hope, that if The Last Summer were to be made into a film, the leading actors – Tom and Clarissa – would be English actors. And there are so many wonderful emerging young actors that I wouldn’t like to say which ones. Also, it would have to be two who could play the parts from youth through to middle age, so not easy. But I could easily see the likes of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in the roles of Mama and Venetia!
If you could have dinner with 4 writers living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Jean Rhys, and Rosamond Lehmann: because they’re a few of my favourite writers and led such fascinating lives. I’d love to listen to Virginia on the Bloomsberries, and hear her gossip about the other writers and artists she knew; I’d love to hear Edith’s voice, her American accent and witty observations on New York society; I’d love Jean to tell me about her childhood growing up in the Caribbean and her early days in London in the 1920s; and I’d be able to ask Rosamond about her love affair with Cecil Day Lewis and her long and tumultuous life. And I’d have the opportunity to tell each of them how much their writing has meant to me.
Being a fellow North Easterner, what do you miss most about the North East now that you live elsewhere?
I sometimes miss the space and, as I grew up on the Northumbrian coast, the empty beaches and the sound of the sea and all those ruined castles. And I often miss the innate friendliness of northerners. But, truthfully, it’s a long time since I lived there and now I very much think of Hampshire as home.
Thank you very much Judith for taking the time to chat with me about your book and inspiration for it. It’s been lovely to meet you and to spend time at Deyning Park!
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