Aldwick author Beryl Kingston is in print with her 29th novel, Everybody’s Somebody (£7.99), the tale of Rosie, sent to work at Arundel Castle at the age of just 12 in the early 1900s.
Beryl, whose first book was published in 1985 and was an instant bestseller, draws inspiration for the young girl’s spirit from fond memories of her own dear relation.
“Rosie is sent to the castle in about 1908 and the story goes up to the lead-up to World War Two, a saga following her adventures. But it is also a delving into my own distant, distant childhood. I had a relative who worked non-stop. The work she did was housework and looking after other people, but she did it superbly, and she was sent out to work aged eight.
“I used to sit at her foot and admire her for coping the way she did. I used to think ‘Now she is something else!’ I loved her determination, and I loved her sense of ‘You’ve just got to get on with it because there is nothing else you can do!’ She used to say that during the war.
“She died a long time ago. She was about 80, and so I think it would have been in the 1960s. She was in Tooting where I lived, and I lived with her for some time. We used to have fish and chips and go out to the pictures. I loved her. She was wonderful.”
And it’s that spirit which transfers to Rosie in the novel.
The novel tells the story of the life of Rosie Goodison, born at the beginning of the 20th-century, through the world wars, the social upheavals of Suffragism and the rise of Fascism, and her life as a mother and a woman in a tumultuous time. It’s a tough life, but she’s had to grow up young and learn to become a survivor, as Beryl says.
“I put Rosie in Binderton because I wanted her to have a rural childhood. I have written so much about London and the cities. And the girl is knocked sideways by Arundel Castle. She is looking after the children, and it is such hard work, but she weathers it.
“On the way there, they are overtaken in their cart by the first motor car she has ever seen! I thought I would have the old-style cart and horse and the new-style car coming in! I had great fun writing this one!”
And seamlessly, Beryl has already moved on to writing novel number 30, the sequel to Everybody’s Somebody: “The book takes Rosie and her family through World War Two. I am going to finish the book with the new health service coming in.”
From her first success, Beryl went on to write a best-seller every year for the next 14 years. Some of her novels are family sagas like Hearts and Farthings and its sequel Kisses and Ha’pennies; some are modern stories like Laura’s Way and Maggie’s Boy; some are historical novels set in the 20th,19th or 18th centuries; some are war stories like A Time to Love and Avalanche of Daisies which feature World War One and World War Two.
Beryl, who was the winner of the 2014 Blake Society Tithe Grant Award, was married for 54 years, had three children and five grandchildren and now has five great-grandchildren.
Beryl’s new book is published by Endeavour.
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