Friday, 6 November 2009

Blog Tour: Medina Hill by Trilby Kent + Guest Blog

*Follow the Medina Hill blog tour at Open Book Toronto & the Tundra Books blog.*

From Amazon: In the grimy London of 1935, eleven-year-old Dominic Walker has lost his voice. His mother is sick and his father’s unemployed. Rescue comes in the form of his Uncle Roo, who arrives to take him and his young sister, Marlo, to Cornwall. Dominic’s passion for Lawrence of Arabia is tested when he finds himself embroiled in a village uprising against a band of travelers who face expulsion. In defending the vulnerable, Dominic learns what it truly means to have a voice.

Medina Hill is a clever debut novel that will appeal to fans of historical fiction, whether their preference be YA or adult. There's a great mix of quirky characters, and an end message of freedom, independence and the power of speech.

Dominic's interest in Lawrence of Arabia was my favourite part of the story, as I started this book knowing nothing about Lawrence, or his inspirational life. Trilby Kent seamlessly included narrative about him, which added that extra historical element to the novel. I've definitely learnt something, and for that reason alone, I'm glad I read this book.

Each character's personality is very different, yet just as strong as each other. They all learn new things about themselves and each other, and find that you can never judge someone by the rumours you hear about them. Dominic learns this firsthand, and soon discovers that gypsies aren't as bad as he has been led to believe. It was an important message to include, and was written with subtlety and an understanding of how people can find themselves at the centre of unwanted negative attention.

Medina Hill is written in a smooth, flowing prose, and is a quick but enjoyable read. It didn't leave me with the wow factor that some books provide, and I think that was largely due to the length. I didn't feel that I knew some of the characters as well as I should, though I knew enough, if that makes any sense. Everything worked, it's a book I'd recommend, but it's not one that I would suggest to every YA reader out there.


Trilby Kent: author of Medina Hill

The American novelist Willa Cather once observed that most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen. It’s a compelling theory – not least for those of us who write for children and young adults.

Medina Hill was written when I was twenty-four – almost a decade after that formative period described by Cather had ended. It was inspired by a trip to Cornwall, where my boyfriend and I spent a long weekend at a former artists’ commune in a tiny village called Lamorna. Behind our cottage was a fogou (a type of Iron Age cave most likely used for religious ceremonies, found throughout northern Europe), from which we are pictured emerging in the photo above. By the time this snap was taken, I’d already devoted three years to my first, overly-ambitious attempt at a children’s novel. Realizing that that particular behemoth was never going to be published, I’d decided to take what I had learnt from the experience and embark on something new. The artists’ commune and the fogou seemed the perfect place to start.

Only the story didn’t start there – not really, anyway. It had actually begun ten years earlier, on a rainy Saturday night in Toronto when I switched on the television in time to catch the opening sequence of David Lean's epic 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia. For the next three hours, the story of the Englishman who led the Arab Revolt of 1916-18 had me transfixed. As a child, I’d lurched from one obsession to another – from manatees to the Black Death to Sherlock Holmes – and sure enough, T.E. Lawrence became my next “phase”. Besides watching the film more times than I can recall, I read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and two years later wrote an independent study project on the Arab Revolt (that essay went into my application to read History at Oxford; some might suggest that I owed my acceptance in part to T.E., not to mention Peter O’Toole!).

Many years after seeing Lean's film for the first time, having since moved to London and then Brussels, I found myself living not far from the spot where Lawrence was killed in a motorcycle crash, near Cloud's Hill in Dorset – and editing a children’s novel about the great man himself.

So Willa Cather was right, in a way. Although other elements of Medina Hill would be based on later experiences (working with ethnic Rom children at an orphanage in Bulgaria, watching a documentary about children living with selective mutism, reading about the carrier pigeon that saved 200 lives in the First World War, discovering the works of English mediumistic artist Madge Gill, learning to create the perfect pie crust – not to mention that fateful weekend in Cornwall!), at the book’s core is the story of a boy who yearns for a life of adventure – something that I had also dreamt of at a similar age, watching Lawrence of Arabia for the first time.


Chicklish said...

This is really interesting! It's great to hear the story behind the story. Great review, too. Thanks!

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I love knowing how authors are inspiried to write their novels. Thanks for the great post, Jenny!

The Book Owl said...

Nice review. I've been hearing pretty good things about it so far.

Kate said...

Great review and an interesting guest post. It's always interesting to hear how authors get their ideas.

Jo - Historical Romance Fan said...

Interesting review... historical fiction appeals to me as I always learn something new!