Norah Lofts Message Board
Karen posts on 12/8/2008 1:27:11 PM
Tyger, thank you for sharing what you've looked into! It is always different when you've lived in a place and know its land and people; it gives you images that we can create only from our reading or learning or whatever else our resources are. I grew up in Jack London's territory, and lived in John Steinbeck's home territory, so some of the places they wrote about I know well from experience; I'm not able to do that with NL's work, as you are. My family hasn't lived there for a thousand years, as yours has. Actually, my paternal family arrived in Lincolnshire as Danish Vikings and left as Puritans, pre-Civil War, so any connection is long ago and far away. I love reading history, but NL breathes life into it, and gives her readers an understanding of it from the inside out. It really does help to be able to visualize things, too! I've looked at old maps I found online, and found several sound-alike place names (I don't have the maps with me; I'll have to look them up again). I also found a place named Rede. I can imagine that she took things from here and there and reassembled them in her recreated world, but to have a greater sense of these places would be very helpful. Regarding the fens, there is a movie - maybe from the early 90s? - with Jeremy Irons, I think called The Water Gardens, in which Irons's character recalls growing up in the fens. He talks about some of the very issues you bring up.
Barbara Hoyland posts on 12/8/2008 12:36:24 AM
I do like the idea of a map, no matter whether it is "real" or not. I am spatially hopeless in the creative sense, but maybe one of us could do it ? Tyger maybe?
Apropos of the incest thing, yes indeed, not at all uncommon in those patriarchal days and places. Not that it necessarily always ended in disabilty and/or deformity but I became aware that the rural place I spent a good deal of my youth in was short on surnames and long on not-talked-about-family connections.... NL taps into profound and generic human stories I think
Mary posts on 12/7/2008 8:47:05 PM
Peace, Tyger! We really do appreciate your on-the-spot knowledge of the settings! In regard to Bury St. Edmunds as (possibly) Baildon, could it be that NL did something similar to what Emily Bronte did when she created Wuthering Heights: used the description of an existing place but moved it to a different location? Anyway, you've done a marvelous amount of reserach. Could you give guided tours to out-of-the area visitors?
Tyger posts on 12/7/2008 4:19:54 PM
Sorry to have stirred up such a hornets nest.
I thought originally that Baildon was Bury St Edmunds but in looking at older maps I don't think it was. I think Clevely was situated around the Caister St Edmunds are which is south of Norwich. It used to be a very eirie place with a ancient small castle and the woods around the village were supposedly haunted and devilish dealings went on. Even as late as the 1970's people talked about devils and witches being in those woods. Sadly, most of it is housing estates nowadays - like everywhere. NL mentions the Madder Market in one book but she doesn't say it was in Norwich. (The Maddermarket is still there but is now a theatre) She used so many places and mixed them up. Sudbury in Suffolk, close to Bury St Edmunds, had a large house, very old that was altered many times and a girl was supposed to have been holed up in it because her father believed that she was meeting a man he did not approve of. Eventually the house was pulled down as nobody would live in it and she is supposed to roam the field where the house stood looking for her boyfriend. NL knew Sudbury quite well.
Jassy Woodroffe is a character that really fascinates me and when I had more time I actually looked at the parish records in the northern part of Suffolk between 1800 and 1900 to see if I could find someone whose name was similar or even a place name that would strike some sort of chord. NL describes Mortiboys so vividly I even searched through old etchings, photos and house sale catalogues hoping to find something.
NL seemes to have placed her stories ranging from Essex up to Norwich, but inland. Rarely is the coastline mentioned.
I was born after WWII and much of those remote areas remained the same until the mid-60's. I certainly went to school with a girl who lived on a farm and the incest in the family was rife. We understood that her mother was also her sister and she was pregnant by the time she was 15 and she was such a plain (and also simple - a candidate for Lindy) girl that it was fairly obvious that one of her brothers or even her own father had made her pregnant. This was in 1959. So you can see that 20 years previously NL would have had plenty of material in these small villages.
I am trying to remember who told me that although NL was quite a private person she did a lot of "good works" which would, of course, have brought her in contact with the poorer people. No social workers then, just the WI and WVS! Many of my family were farmworkers and lived in the Fens and as a child I saw real poverty. (My father was a Civil Servant so we were considerably better off than the rest of the family).One of my aunts lived in the most dreadful house, it should have been condemned. Her life has been one of tragedy and she wasn't the only one who had a hard life in that area.
Layer Wood. This is such a common name that it is difficult to know where it could have been as people often changed the name and perhaps only one ancient would remember it's original name. In the village I live in at the moment a lane name has changed in the past ten years and that is now on all the maps! Two fields are called Great Rowley and Old Rowley but we have never had a Rowley living in the village. And I know what I am looking for. With the places NL sets her novels in we don't actually know what we are looking for.
I do hope I have made amends a bit?
Barbara Hoyland posts on 12/6/2008 3:13:49 AM
I was very surprised at Tyger 's "nobody knows anything but me" post, such an inappropriate sort of message for this erstwhile lovely calm friendly place. Apart from anything else, nobody was even pretending to know anything, rather the reverse, they were asking for local knowledge, and would have been very grateful for someone giving a visualisation . I know I would. I feel as if there must be something going on I'm not aware of to make her write that odd, angry stuff, especially about not being responded to....? I sometimes feel that, if I have asked what people think of soemthing in NL and nobody replies ( like my query on half brothers, whcih I really thoguht would have interested somone else . But there you go, never mind! I too have read the Doemetic Life in England, and I grew up in an insular village setting , albeit not in East Anglia. What makes you think think people don't belive or understand that stuff Tyger? I think most of the posts indicate that they certainly do. Anyways, let get back to substance of NL's great books eh?
Gabi posts on 12/4/2008 10:35:01 PM
This site goes out a lot. I was trying to get back on after my last post, today. Gabrielle is my name but I'm called Gabi.
Tyger, Really, you could make us see the map of the world she created. Like, is there a 'real' Layer Wood?
Is the fictional town of Baildon, actually based on Bury St Edmunds? There is a town called Basildon that is somewhere (I think) southwest of Suffolk.
What of the Houses in the stories?. Do they have any basis in real life?
Lastly, are the Hattons NL speaks of related to the current day family who has a Member of Parliament?
I haven't read any of her biographies, but it seems that since her books are being reprinted, they may start appearing in the Library. The Lake Macquarie library, which has 8 branches has let their collection wind down.
Mary Ann posts on 12/4/2008 8:41:11 PM
Tyger, I did post to you long ago in response to Road to Revelation. I shared with you that the book was published in the US under the title Winter Harvest. I have TWO hardback copies of the over-sized book Domestic Life in England. I think I have managed to obtain a copy of every book she wrote -- even the ones only published in the UK. I continue to collect (checking all old book stores and flea markets). My duplicates go to nieces who also enjoy NL's writing style. She will remain my favorite wordsmith for always -- she breaths life into her characters, both the fiction and non-fiction. Her way of winding fate through the stories is unparalleled.
I think you should create the map of the Lofts world for us. I would buy one!
Mary posts on 12/4/2008 8:12:39 PM
Tyger, perhaps the reason people don't respond to your posts is your "No one knows anything but me" attitude! (Actually, however, I see that you haven't poseted anything since last spring, unless you're also the "Tyerg0712" who seemed to take offense last month at my praising NL for her amusingly accurate depiction of Americans.) As a matter of fact, I, too, have Domestic Life in Englsnd (and suspected before Cassies' post tht I wasnt't the only one), as well as NL's biography of Anne Boleyn.
Perhaps no one else here grew up in East Anglia and read the novels in situ, as you said. But EA isn't the only place in the world with isolated, xenophobic rural villages! Although one aspect of NL's greatness was her creation of her answer to Hardy's Wessex and Faulkner's Mississippi, another was her ability to touch common human chords in all her readers. She anabled us to identify with a Queen of Renaissance Spain and a Jewsih village girl in the time of Augustus as well as with the more recent and close-to-home unhappily married daughters of a propserous Victorian farmer.
If you could put your in situ knowledge and experience to work by constructing a map of the Baildon-Layer Wood area, I think MANY readers would be grateful to you! But please don't take the attitude I observed in the T-shirt worn by some of my African-American students several years ago: Front: "It's a Black thing." Back: "You wouldn't understand."
Cassie posts on 12/4/2008 7:48:09 PM
I am reading Domestic Life in England right now. I'm finding it very interesting. I love learning about how they lived back then.
Gabrielle fuller posts on 12/4/2008 7:06:29 PM
Tyger! There you are! I have been looking for you since I saw your query on that other site. Did you ever get your copy of Road to Revelation (Winter Harvest.
You mustn't rouse on the girls. As you say they are dying for information and must rely on guessing, supposing and wondering to figure out where NL was coming from.
You live there! This is great news. Can you tell us some stories about those times you know?
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