Why did you write this book?
I was interested in describing all the little things that change from one generation to the next, so that nowadays not many people remember what their grandparents ate, how they dressed, what perfumes they used.
The book came out of a novella that my mother wrote just after World War 2. I always loved the story: it was about a French family divided by ideology: members of the Resistance and Fascists. My mom and I had a project to expand the story, and finally I kept that promise.
Were you inspired by real people?
Yes of course, it is what most writers do. For instance, Uncle Jules is based on a man who was a war prisoner with my father. He was a skirt chaser and a patriot. As a young girl, I could not understand it: I thought patriots should be perfect. This is just an inspiration. In the book, Uncle Jules is meant to die during the war. It is necessary for the development of the story, as the killing of Jules by the Germans is the reason why Marine leaves Lille. I made him die like a great great uncle of mine, who was shot in the face in 1916. The family only recognized him by his shoes: he had a new pair of yellow shoes. A century later, I remember that because my mother told me his story countless times. I am the last person in the world to remember it, so it was important for me to say that Uncle Jules died with his yellow shoes.
And who was the real Lyman?
That is a secret.
How much research did you do for the book?
Quite a lot. I am fastidious, it comes from being a scientist. I researched places, homes, fashion, famous people who meet my heroes. For instance I researched what was the best cocktail served at the Savoy in London in 1944. I can tell you that the barman was an American who had left the U.S. because of the prohibition. I do not think that readers care about that, I just cannot help it.
So, there is a rue Papote, a gossip street?
Yes, but it is not in Lille, it is in a small town nearby; and the suburb of Lille called Crolais does not exist. In the real rue Papote, there is dog named Derrick, though, he was a great inspiration for me.