Meet Jennifer Robson. She is a historian, novelist, and a kindred spirit with those in the military. All of her books are character driven with strong female and male heroes that are somewhat independent. They begin in a place of relative powerlessness while ending in a place of relative strength. Robson spoke about the challenges, her writings and influences.
Her latest project was a chapter in the anthology “Fall Of Poppies,” titled, “All For The Love Of You.” Through a heart warming plot she describes what an American Captain, Daniel Mancuso, had to endure when his cheekbones were shattered and right eye lost. He was able to have a mask fitted by the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks, a civilian based organization that allowed wounded warriors to get fulfillment, flickers of hope, and protection from those who might react negatively to the deformities. But it is also a love story, which emphasizes the importance of a person’s inner beauty, rather than their physical appearance.
Released early this year, “Moonlight Over Paris” is the last book in the World War I series. It is a follow up to “After The War Is Over,” and the first in the series, “Somewhere in France.” This latest emphasizes Paris during the 1920s, where the characters experience a new world after World War I. Just as the fictional characters come into contact with the “Lost Generation,” and its circle of American expatriates, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, so does the reader. It is a story of friendship, change, and choices.
“I hope readers are touched by what my heroes, Sam and Daniel, have suffered, and then make the connection to what our soldiers are going through today,” she said. “I have had heroes endure PTSD, being maimed, and have experienced terrible things. Yet, they made a decision that it would not define their life. I do think the average person today does not have a connection to someone in the military; yet, should understand the implications of what it is like to serve, be injured, or lose a life. It seems it is very easy to spend money to support wars, but very difficult to spend money to support the veterans afterward. When I served as a guide in France in 1989 at the National War Memorial I will never forget how I had a chance to thank those who fought in the Great World War, shake their hands, and listen to what they had to say. It was an honor for me. It was something that influenced me as I decided to write this series.”
Having been influenced by her family members and friends who have served she commented, “I worry about the generations dying out. Will my children understand the sacrifices made by those who served? My great grandfather was a soldier in WWI and my grandfather was an aviator in WWII. I hope in a small way my novels capture the people, memories, and thoughts of veterans. I want the periods to come alive as a way to honor the memory of those who fought.”
The chapter in the anthology insightfully shows how facial prosthetics gave wounded warriors confidence to venture outside without being thought of as oddities. She explained, “Facial deformities is something the human eye has difficulty processing. In doing research I looked at a lot of pictures and was taken in by those people’s suffering. I wrote this chapter to show what happens to soldiers when they survive with major injuries that can affect their lives. My character made the point that a soldier could still live even after having a horrendous injury that maimed them.”
Besides feeling a bond with her characters, readers are also able to understand that those who worked in the studio for portrait masks took up the challenge of healing the emotional wounds as the doctors and nurses healed the physical wounds. Robson stated, “No one who worked there made much money and it was not done for profit. Through my research I read some of the letters written to Anna Coleman Ladd, a renowned American sculptor, who set up the studio. The letters expressed such gratitude of being able to get even a part of their lives back. They said how they were able to go home and not see disgust on the faces of their loved ones. An interesting point I found out is that there are very few masks in existence today. The superstition of most historians is that the masks were probably buried with the men.”
In reading these books people will feel they are actually a part of the story. The best historical fiction novels allow people to understand what is happening and get swept up in the story. They are able to see the world through the character’s eyes and hopefully relate it to today’s issues. With Robson’s writings, readers can gain an understanding of the war, its aftermath, and how those on the front lines are able to connect in the new world.