Start reading This Is Us now:
When I first had the idea for this book there was a particular scene that kept playing over in my mind, that of our protagonist powering through the water. That became the prologue and the rest of the story unfolds from there.
The book focuses on four friends in a book club and when our main character Stella’s husband Simon suddenly disappears, seemingly without trace, her family and friends hold her together. But when Stella discovers a secret from his past, she embarks on a journey of her own – in more ways than one.
As for the settings, I knew this novel had to go to Florence! My first novel, This Changes Everything, is partly set in Rome and my second, In Just One Day, in Venice. I first fell in love with Florence whilst reading one of my favourite books, A Room With A View, as a teenager. Soon after I saw the film for the first time and then visited as a seventeen-year-old with friends as we inter-railed our way around Europe. It was just as beautiful and romantic as I’d hoped with the Arno flowing right through the middle of the city and the Tuscan hills lying in the distance. There’s also a darker side to Florence I found fascinating.
Next, the story takes us to the island of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. Again, it’s a place I visited many years ago with my husband and the scenery stays with you long after you leave the island. I remember arriving by ferry on a clear, windy day and seeing Duart Castle for the first time, standing guard over the Sound of Mull. We had a tour of the castle and the treasures inside, and only afterwards realised that the wonderful old lady guiding us round was in fact the owner (she hadn’t let on)!
When I started plotting this novel, I knew I wanted to explore the subject of betrayal. But in all the research I did – reading numerous first-person accounts and talking to lots of people who’d experienced it first hand – the one common thread was that so often people come out the other side a whole lot stronger. What’s more, the fracture lines might always be there but if you surround yourself with the right people, so will they. Betrayal might be the subject, but the core of this book is love and friendship.