Monday, 13 July 2015

My guest author is Mary Rensten......

I am delighted to welcome 

Mary Rensten 

author of

Corazon Books
June 2015

The perfect summer holiday read.

When Jane Thornfield finds an envelope hidden in her mother's bedroom drawer it heralds the beginning of a journey of discovery. Long buried family secrets are unearthed and Jane is forced to question her very identity.

Jane's search for the truth takes her to Malta, where she learns about the harsh realities of life during the Siege of Malta in the Second World War. But her attempts to unlock a fifty-year-old secret are met with suspicion and a wall of silence.

Letters from Malta is about a woman's quest to make sense of her present and her past. The setting of Malta is brought vividly to life in this moving, perceptive tale of love and loss.

"The story sweeps you along and the characters are so real." Suzannah Dunn, best-selling historical novelist (The Sixth Wife, The May Bride)

"I couldn't put this down. I couldn't wait to find out what had happened in Malta 60 years ago." Meg Alexander, romantic novelist

"It has just the right combination of drama, humour, romance and intrigue to make it perfect reading at home or on holiday." TAR Entertainment

Mary shares with us ten interesting facts about Malta and its history:

1. The George Cross was awarded to Malta in 1942 by King George VI, to ‘bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people’ during the Great Siege in WWII, when the population came close to starvation, but did not surrender. You can see the Cross and the King’s message in the War Museum in Valletta, as my character Ken in Letters from Malta did. ‘You can’t come to Malta, and not see the George Cross,’ he said.

2. Wine has been produced in Malta for over 2000 years … and today’s wines are very good; I know, I’ve tasted them!  In Letters from Malta, Jane and Carmela drink some at lunch in the hotel, and Jane learns that Maltese wines have just won prizes in an international competition.

3. Joseph Calleja, known as ‘The Maltese Tenor’, is one of the world’s top tenors. His Rodolfo in ‘La Boheme’ is stunning. What a voice … and he’s good-looking, too! He was born in Attard, which is not far from Mdina, in 1978; at 19 he made his operatic debut in Malta’s sister island Gozo.

Joseph Calleja by Paul Zammit Cutajar ©

4.The Maltese language, called Malti in Maltese, is descended from an Arabic dialect that developed in Sicily. It is one of the official languages of the European Union. Jane has little chance of trying out her few words of Maltese, because nearly everyone in Malta speaks English, but she does manage to say one word: Sahha, which can mean ‘Goodbye’ or ‘Cheers!’

5.The Knights of St. John ruled Malta from the 16th century until the island was conquered by Napoleon in 1798. The Knights, whose name and emblem, the Maltese Cross, are known to us today through the wonderful St.John’s Ambulance Brigade, made Malta an important centre of learning and art. Their main Hospital had schools of Anatomy, Surgery and Pharmacy; they established a Public Library and a school of Mathematics.

6.The 2004 blockbuster, Troy, starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom, was shot here and parts of the film were set in Mellieha. Tom Hanks’ 2013 movie, Captain Phillips, was filmed here, and the same year the BBC also used the waters around Malta to shoot The Whale, which tells the story behind Moby Dick.

7.Until a few years ago, the tiny island of Comino, between Malta and Gozo – you may know it; it has a posh hotel! – produced some of the finest bacon in the world. (I ate some in 1995 … as did characters in my book!) I think the pig farm there may have closed now, but Maltese bacon is still very good!

8.If you’re keen on archaeology, Malta will have you in heaven! Ancient cart tracks, Neolithic remains, caves, temple ruins, statues of goddesses … it has them all, in situ and in museums.

Hagar Qim by Mario Galea ©

9..Malta has few trees … of the kind for making coffins, so during WWII, when wood could not be imported, many of them were made of tin, recycled oil drums and large NAAFI biscuit tins from the air bases. They creaked scarily when they were carried!

10.In 1608 the artist Caravaggio painted his largest altar-piece here; it hangs in St.John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, where Caravaggio, known also for his wild life-style, was a knight.

Caravaggio altarpiece, Beheading of John the Baptist by Clive Vella ©

Huge thanks to Mary for sharing such interesting facts about Malta and to Ian at Corazon for his help in organising this post.


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