The outbreak of World War One, or nearly so. The official start was in August 1915. The anniversary is being recognized in England by, among other things, a plan to fill the moat of the Tower of London with more than 800,000 ceramic poppies, to mark the 800,000 lives lost.
The Great War looms over Up, Back, and Away and my research for the book gave me a feeling for the disaster that might have been one of the real uses of having written it at all.
A bit of news...
I have started work on a sequel to Up, Back, and Away. Don't tell anyone. A work in progress is a delicate thing. As I was working on it tonight, (forget I said that) my thoughts went back to Thomas Hardy's famous poem, In Time of Breaking of Nations, which he wrote in 1915.
Here it is, for your reading pleasure:
|ONLY a man harrowing clods|
|In a slow silent walk,|
|With an old horse that stumbles and nods|
|Half asleep as they stalk.|
|Only thin smoke without flame||5|
|From the heaps of couch grass:|
|Yet this will go onward the same|
|Though Dynasties pass.|
|Yonder a maid and her wight|
|Come whispering by;||10|
|War's annals will fade into night|
|Ere their story die.|
I read this poem when I was in high school or college. (I can't quite remember when. I went through quite a Hardy phase once upon a time). What I remembered about the poem, and what brought it back to mind tonight was not really the War, per se, but its main point. As the annotation on the poem at Poetry Genius put it:
The underlying current of this poem is that the breaking of nations is not a sustainable undertaking, and when bombs, ammunition, and (more likely) soliders run out, what will be left is what has always been left, what endures through all periods of destruction and turmoil: genuine relationships, between humans and the earth and between pairs of humans.
I thought that was very nicely put. It also, it occurred to me, might be said that the same essentials will survive underneath the surface of a prosperous, at-peace but distracted nation - like the one most of us in the US and UK know today.
My attention in the new book will be on Ada in the contemporary USA. Her challenge will not be to make her way during war, or in the war-weakened society into which she was born and raised (England just before and after the Great War) but in ours. Not too many "men harrowing clods" in Austin, Texas or Manhattan, (just a few hints...), but in finding and holding onto their equivalents in the chaos, speed, and glitter of our times. Great successes await Ada and all the trouble that comes along with it. Stay tuned.