In the summer of 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was assassinated which triggered a chain of events that resulted in World War 1. The Great War. The war to end all wars.
Alliances were formed, which pitted the Allies of France, Great Britain and Russia against Germany and Austria-Hungary. By the end of the war, over 9 million soldiers had been killed, including 61 thousand Canadians and another 21 million wounded (including 172,000 Canadians).
The Netherlands was neutral during the war, but they did contribute. Many benevolent societies stepped up to provide medical support in the form of doctors and nurses, ambulances, supplies and medicine. It was through this support that the Netherlands Ambulance Service in France came to form a hospital in the location of a beautiful restaurant called Le Pre Catelan in the middle of the park of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. The building was transformed into a hospital for the duration of the war, staffed by Dutch medical teams and supplied by Dutch resources.
And so it was that my protagonist, Liesbeth Zwart and her sister Alida volunteered their services as nurses and travelled to Paris.
This is where my new Historical Fiction, After Paris, begins. Paris, 1916. The story follows Liesbeth Zwart who forges her identity in France during WW1. We see her working in horrific circumstances in France but her greatest test comes after the war. She returns to Netherlands and gives up her career to become a wife and a mother. The world had changed forever after the Great War. It inspired the Russian Revolution. Empires shifted with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire into modern day Middle East. And the role of women changed as well. In England, France and Germany, women were refusing to go back into the box of their quiet homes and family life. Would it be possible for a woman who had seen what Liesbeth saw, to go back and fulfill her family and country’s domestic expectations?
When Liesbeth makes a shocking discovery, she flees to Nova Scotia, Canada but can she outrun her past?
This captivating story of a woman lost in the turmoil between the old world and new, will resonate with anyone who has witnessed a person that has constructed their entire identity on a career. Whether an injured athlete, a retiring thirty-year ‘company man’ or an ‘empty nester’ Mom, creating a new identity is sometimes an insurmountable challenge.
Have you gone through a redundancy or down-sizing? Do you know some-one who has had to start again to define who they are? Share your story. I’d love to hear about it.
About The Author
Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. Her debut novel, Family Business, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, 2015. She studied English Literature at Trent University. Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavours all that she does.
Renny lives in rural Ontario with her Great Pyrenees and Chocolate Lab.