In A New History of Love
Follow in Bel’s footsteps from the libraries of Oxford to the Loire Valley, and learn more about the literary background to the book. Librarian colleagues and CILIP members might also like to learn more about the library characters and settings.
At the start of the novel Bel is working in the Bodleian Library, one of the most famous seats of learning in the world. She later makes a visit to the library of the Taylor Institution, where Alec would have worked on his thesis and where I did some research for the novel.
Alec’s college, St. Saviour’s, is roughly modelled on Oriel College whose library I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago.
Lauran is modelled on the Parc de Lathan in the village of Breil about 20 miles from Saumur in the Loire Valley. We stayed in Breil in 2003 in the Vieux Curie, owned by our friends Ali and Jon.
The Chateau de Lathan has an historic garden said to be based on the Carte de Tendre and which was a big part of the inspiration to write this novel.
Lathan itself is little known apart from a hunting festival held in the grounds. You can get a feel for the area on Ali and Jon’s website. (The photograph is of Breil Church.)
English Historic Gardens
Historic gardens continue to provide a theme in Bel’s journey.
‘Gibney House’, where she takes Alice to visit the grotto, is based on Goldney House and Gardens, owned by Bristol University and open to the public only once a year.
‘Hillview House’ is the fascinating Painswick Rococo Garden, now well into a restoration project based on an eighteenth century painting.
The novel has been a great excuse to delve into the history of garden design and to visit other local historic gardens.
The Carte de Tendre was devised by Madeleine de Scudéry, a pioneer in the development of the French novel and a central figure in the French salons of the seventeenth century. She was also the leader of the Précieuses, a group of women who strove to bring greater refinement to the French language but who were later ridiculed by contemporary writers including Molière.
Details of Madeleine’s life can be found in Wikipedia, or any literary reference book or website.
The most comprehensive account of her writing on the web is on Dorothy Disse’s ‘Other Women’s Voices’ site at http://home.infionline.net/~ddisse/scudery.html
The other major source used for the writing of the novel is a monograph by J.S. Munroe (1986) Madeleine de Scudéry and the Carte de Tendre. University of Durham (Durham Modern Languages Series, FM3)
The novel also skirts around the study of historical bibliography. You can find out more about the history of books on the Hobo site.