Escape this summer to the heart of Spain…
August is just about still here and we’re expecting another burst of sunshine! But if it’s not heading your way, you can escape with Her Last Promise to the heart of Spain. Winner of the 2019 Prima Magazine ‘Big Book of The Year Award’, it’s a page-turning, heartwrenching story of how hope can blossom in the ruins of tragedy and of the redeeming power of love.
What’s the book about?
Tara Richards was just a girl when she lost her mother. Years later when Tara receives a letter from a London solicitor its contents shake her to the core. Someone has left her a key to a safe deposit box. In the box lies an object that will change everything Tara thought she knew, and lead her on a journey to deepest Spain in search of the answers that have haunted her for forty years.
Violet Skye regrets her decision to travel abroad, leaving her young daughter behind. As the sun dips below the mountains, she reminds herself she is doing this for their future. Tonight, 4 June 1978, will be the start of a new life for them. This night will indeed change Violet’s destiny, in the most unexpected of ways…
‘Wonderful! First book I have read by Kathryn Hughes. I loved it *****’
‘Another great story from Kathryn Hughes *****’
‘As always, a lovely story by Kathryn Hughes *****’
Kathryn Hughes meets Thomas Cook! Find out what she has to say…
1. What inspired you to write Her Last Promise?
The inspiration for this book came on a family cycling holiday to central Spain in 2017. We had been cycling for hours along rutted tracks, up punishing hills and all in blistering heat. We were looking for a suitable place to stop for our picnic when we noticed that if we made a five-kilometre detour, followed by a two-kilometre trek, we would be rewarded with fabulous views down to the River Duraton. I have to say the kids took some persuading but parental pressure/bribery prevailed and off we went. Fortunately, it was all worth it, (even the kids reluctantly admitted this), for there, perched on a peninsula, high above the canyon was the now-derelict Hermitage of San Frutos. It would be difficult to imagine a more remote existence and I began to wonder what made a person leave their old life behind and come and live in such isolation, cut-off from civilisation. The hermitage became my blueprint for my fictional monastery Monasterio du Justina.
2. Why did you choose the backdrop of Spain for this novel?
We came across so many wonderful villages on that holiday, but none more spectacular than Pedraza, a tiny medieval town standing at an elevation of 1,073m. We had to dismount and push our bikes up the short but steep hill to arrive through a gap in the walls. Entering the main square was like walking onto the set of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I immediately knew I had to work this place into my story too. We also visited the UNESCO World Heritage city of Segovia, about an hour from Madrid, which is truly spectacular, with its staggering Roman aqueduct, gothic cathedral and the Alcazar. The Hermitage, Pedraza and Segovia all feature in Her Last Promise, along with my home city of Manchester of course!
3. I see you’ve travelled a lot. What’s your favourite summer holiday destination?
It has to be Greece. I love the food, the beaches, the beer, the people and of course the weather. I’ve visited Crete, Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, Aegina, Skiathos and Paros but feel I’ve barely scratched the surface.
4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?
One of the greatest storyteller’s of all time – Sidney Sheldon. When I was a teenager I read and re-read all his books time and again. He just had this incredible power to make you keep turning the pages. The most important thing I aspire to achieve in my books is to make the reader think ‘just one more chapter.’ Whilst reading my first book, The Letter, one reader told me that she’d had to phone work and tell them she was sick, as she couldn’t put the book down and just had to finish it. I’m not advocating people ‘pulling a sickie’, but that did make me laugh.
5. Which of your novels have you most enjoyed writing?
My debut novel, The Letter. When I was writing it, I didn’t really think it was ever going to be published and with that came a certain amount of freedom. Having said that, I procrastinated an awful lot and took six years to finish it. My other three books have all been published under contract with Headline and with a contract comes a deadline. They have all been written in twelve months. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.
6. What’s your favourite book of all time?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because our tastes and reading habits change over time. It’s like asking me which is my favourite child. Sometimes it’s my son, sometimes it’s my daughter and sometimes it’s the dog. However, I’m going to plump for Animal Farm, by George Orwell. I studied it for English O Level and before the lesson the teacher would lead us all in a rendition of Beasts of England. In The Letter, one of my characters names his horse Boxer, after the stoic cart horse in Animal Farm, who literally works himself to death.
7. What type of books do you like to read on a relaxing beach holiday?
I like to read a book that is set in the place I am visiting. For instance, when I was in Crete, I read Victoria Hislop’s The Island and when I visited Venice, I read Us by David Nicholls. This year, I’m going on a paddle steamer from Memphis to New Orleans and will be taking Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.
8. If you were to write a book based abroad again, where would you choose?
I haven’t yet found anywhere to inspire me as much as that holiday to central Spain. Even then, I wasn’t actively looking for ideas, so who knows?
9. What book is currently at the top of your must-read list?
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls. I’ve loved everything he’s ever written. I only wish he would write quicker!
Her Last Promise is out in paperback on 22 August 2019.