Eleanor Limprecht at Word Salad

by Linda Godfrey

There are some novels that feel delicate, like slipping on a lace glove; others are tighter, like a belt cinched in at the waist. The best novels are both, illuminated with rays of light against the shadows ... masked by a veneer of beauty. Eleanor Limprecht’s novel The Passengers is an exquisite balancing act, drawing together the narratives of Sarah, returning home from America for the first time since leaving as a war bride in 1945, and her granddaughter Hannah—who has her own experience with love and heartbreak.

We were lucky enough to have Eleanor come to Thirroul Community Centre last Wednesday on the 23rd of May, discussing her new novel in conversation with Lynne Cook. Hailing from Sydney, Eleanor made it an unforgettable experience, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. If you missed it, Linda Godfrey reflects on the successful event below, capturing all of the highlights:

“Everything about this night was so familiar yet at the same time, not. Author Eleanor Limprecht was doing an ‘in conversation’ with Word Salad’s Lynne Cook, and I travelled to the Thirroul event by train, a rare thing for me as I’m usually embedded in—and zooming around the streets in—my trusty blue Lancer. The 5.30 pm train was crowded with students going home from UOW. Two people had taken up an entire bench, just the two of them—with their feet on the seats, earplugs in, and with purple suitcases. Others walked through the carriages looking for a spare seat. I stood; it was only a ten-minute ride.

In the Escarpment Room at Thirroul Community Centre it was back to the familiar: people I knew—and new ones as well—were standing in groups talking, full wine glasses in hand. Others were circling plates of dips, cheese, veggies and crackers with the two wine casks standing sentinel. Eleanor had arrived and was chatting with Lynne. I sold raffle tickets, which gave me a chance to speak to everybody, including a woman I hadn’t seen since the late 1980s.

Lynne and Eleanor took their places at the front of the room: everyone else took a seat. Eleanor’s peripatetic childhood gave us an insight into how an author might be a “chameleon”, adapting to different countries as well as losing herself in her characters and stories. We started with a discussion of Eleanor’s latest book The Passengers, which was the story of Sarah, who had gone to America as a war bride and was now going home to Australia on a cruise ship with her American granddaughter, Hannah. The discussion ranged over the characters in the book, the massive gap between Sarah’s brief war-time romance in Australia followed by a lifetime after in Midwestern America, her isolation and homesickness, and the reality of a life with a husband and his family that she barely knew. Eleanor talked about the secrets both Sarah and Hannah held close, until the sea voyage gave them the freedom to talk about those delicate issues that may be too hard to discuss with a parent.

Lynne asked about the ‘missing mother’ in the mother in the story: initially, Eleanor said she wrote a great deal about the mother, but it hadn’t worked. The discussion turned to the power of setting, and the heartbreaking moments made more poignant by the cruel fate of animals that characters have loved.

Eleanor spoke of her historical research, especially how she used the information as background to the narrative. She talked about the delicacy of writing fictional narratives based on real people. She had interviewed two Australian war brides, now aged in their 90’s, and used war records to find statistics and details about war brides from the Second and the First World Wars. The discussion about historical fiction naturally led to Eleanor’s second novel Long Bay, which was based on a true story about Rebecca Sinclair, a young woman convicted of manslaughter after she performed a botched abortion in 1909. Again, Eleanor said her research came to life when she met Rebecca’s great granddaughter.

Eleanor and Lynne also talked about Eleanor’s first novel, the critically acclaimed literary fiction What Was Left, in which Rachel—who is American by birth like Eleanor—struggles with the anxiety and isolation of being a new mother in a new country. Eleanor said it was great to have the chance to talk about all of her books.

Too soon it was over, and time for questions. Eleanor had books to sell and to sign, and she graciously drew the raffle for us. Then, we chatted some more, had another drink, packed up the room, cleaned up, turned off the lights, turned on the alarm, waited to check that it didn’t go off, then walked to the pub. To talk about the talk, you know.”

Eleanor Limprecht reading from The Passengers

Eleanor Limprecht and Lynne Cook

Thank you to Eleanor Limprecht, Linda Godfrey and Lynne Cook for hosting such a wonderful event!

Written by SCWC

Posted on May 31, 2018