The French Winemaker’s Daughter
Behind the Book
When I was young, I remember being fascinated with my father’s cache of WWII memorabilia. He’d served in the Army during the last days of the war in Japan, just after the bombing in Hiroshima. I don’t know if he purchased the artifacts, or if they were given to him (or how he obtained them, actually), but my brothers were obsessed with the long sword he brought home. I admired a delicate handkerchief decorated with a picture of a red sun and Japanese writing. I brought it to school for show-and-tell once. It wasn’t until after his death that I saw these items again. My sister-in-law was living in Japan, so I took a picture and sent it to her, where a Japanese colleague translated the writing. I found out it was called a Good Luck Flag, filled with messages of love and support from the family of a soldier going into battle. I wondered what happened to the soldier who’d carried this, the story behind the flag we had owned all these years, and if his family could be located. Although I found out it might be almost impossible to find the family now (he had a common last name), it was suggested that the flag belonged in a museum. It made me wonder what we owe others, especially those who have lost so much during the war? And what stories lurk behind objects that we take for granted as mere tokens of our travels?
My father in-law served in France during WWII, but what he brought back was internal. Emotional baggage that left him unable to speak about the war or what he’d encountered there.
WWII historical novels are filled with stories of loss of life and property, and of emotional trauma. These are the books I’m often drawn to read. I’m fascinated by the resilience of people who face tremendous loss, and how they carry on despite such trauma. In researching another historical novel, I came across a book called Wine & War – intriguing stories of how the French saved their wines from the Nazis. And in reading this, the image of a small girl formed in my mind, one whose only inheritance is a bottle of wine disguised with a fake label. And when I read about Hotel Drouot, the oldest auction house in Paris, I learned of how many stolen and lost artifacts end up there, often sold by those responsible for taking them. With this came the image of another woman, years later, a pilot who faces her own challenges, who finds the rare bottle, and feels the need to search for the story behind it.
I spent five years researching and writing the book, part of which was delayed due to Covid. I was finally able to travel to France in 2022 and visit the sites in which my book takes place. I knew I’d fall in love with it before I traveled there, and of course, the vineyards and towns are every bit as beautiful and poignant as I’d imagined. I hope my book does them justice, as well as the theme of personal restitution, which we all face to some degree.
Marly Rusoff Literary Agency