An excerpt from my forthcoming novel, ‘The House at Zaronza’

Front cover final

I’m getting very excited about the publication of my historical novel with Crooked Cat Publishing, which is only just over a month away. I’m also delighted with the cover, above. Between now and 29th July, I’ll publish a few short extracts, starting with the ones below.

The House at Zaronza, loosely inspired by a true story, concerns Maria Orsini, the daughter of a bourgeois family in a Corsican village at the start of the 20th century. She and the village schoolmaster carry on a secret romance, but her parents have other plans for her and she sees her dreams crumble. The novel follows Maria’s life from Corsica to the Western Front in World War I and beyond.

The first extracts are from the very beginning. Rachel Swift, a British academic, travels to Corsica to discover more about her forebears:

Zaronza 2010

The ruins of the château forked into the sky above Zaronza as Rachel arrived late on a September afternoon. The sun was already dipping towards the horizon, wreathed in skeins of crimson and purple. A small knot of anticipation formed in her stomach. This was where her grandmother might have lived as a girl…

The house was one of the most imposing in the village, at the end of an alleyway. A typical Corsican house, it was foursquare and without ornament, almost severe. With its narrow windows, it resembled a fortress. A rocky pinnacle sheltered it from the sea breezes and rose up steeply to the ruined château and an 18th-century watchtower. Rachel felt a strange affinity for the place…

The room was comfortable, if not luxurious, with well-polished furniture and a double bed covered with a white counterpane. A framed picture on the massive chest of drawers drew her attention. Like the pictures in the corridor, it was a page of handwriting. The paper was yellowed and spotted with age and the ink was a faded brown. She picked it up and held it to the light.

My lovely Maria,

Why are you so harsh to me? You accuse me of flirting with other girls but you know I only have eyes for you. If I look at another girl it is only to compare her with you…

To be continued, as they say.

We will be going to Corsica again in September after a gap of two years – for the fifth time. I can’t wait.  

You might also like:

Corsica: l’Île de Beauté
Meet my Main Character from My Novel ‘The House at Zaronza’
The Next Big Thing: ‘The House at Zaronza’

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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20 Responses to An excerpt from my forthcoming novel, ‘The House at Zaronza’

  1. fractalangel says:

    Vanessa, I found a mention of your book by accident whilst surfing the web, reading articles about Corsica (as you do!) so I bought it immediately and was unable to put it down. For me, it rang much truer to Corsica than the other novels by anglophone writers about Corsica which I have read, as it avoided all the terrible clichés that people seem so keen to introduce. It’s a fascinating story, as well, although I guessed pretty early on that Zarazona was probably at least partially based on Nonza, what with the references to Sta Ghjulia and all.

    I am going to have yet another (probably failing) attempt at NaNoWriMo in a few days, with a mystery novel set in Calvi/Bastia (Calvi being where I have a flat, and Bastia being where I spend too much time due to football).

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    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you so much for your kind comment about my book. You clearly know Corsica very well, so your opinion comes as a great compliment. We have visited 5 times and I am very attached to the island. I wanted to avoid the sort of ill-informed clichés and assumptions about Corsica that you often find in fiction and non-fiction. If you say I have succeeded, then I am delighted. Yes, Zaronza is broadly based on Nonza but it’s also a kind of composite Corsican village.

      I wish you all the best with your own writing and with NaNoWriMo. I look forward to reading your mystery novel.

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  4. amelie88 says:

    Sounds like a mystery! Congrats on getting the book published.

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  5. Good luck with the book Vanessa. Bristol now has a direct flight to Corsica so hope to visit soon.

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  6. So looking forward to reading this, Vanessa. I only went to Vorsica once, hitch-hiking with a schoolfriend, and memorably broke out in German measles there! Just loved the place.

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    • Oops of course I meant to write Corsica, but I can’t figure out how to edit…

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    • nessafrance says:

      I have heard about your hitch-hiking adventure – which sounds a bit grisly. I don’t expect you to remember the start of the novel, which I think you read when I posted it on WA, but I have completely changed the first few chapters since then. I hope it is an improvement.

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  7. I can understand your excitement. The story sounds very intriguing. Good luck!

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  8. MELewis says:

    Félicitations, Vanessa! We’ve only been to Corsica once, and neither my husband nor I are history buffs…but we loved the place and I look forward to discovering more of your novel.

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    • nessafrance says:

      I am addicted to Corsica and we are returning for the 5th time this year. Hopefully, my novel is more of a story than a historical tome – but that will be for readers to decide.

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  9. Osyth says:

    Corsica is on my wish-list for visiting as soon as we are able – in the meantime, I know I shall enjoy your book which I am eagerly anticipating! The little gouter has whet my apetite more 🙂

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    • nessafrance says:

      Definitely worth a visit – or several! We are making our 5th trip in September. Now that the novel is coming out, it has an even more special meaning for me.

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  10. Deborah says:

    Most intriguing, Vanessa.

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