The paperback edition of ‘Gardens of Stone’ is finally available, published by Hodder at a cover price of £8.99. Stephen and I have made very few changes to the hardback edition, although sharp-eyed readers may notice that some of the four-letter words I had attributed to him in the heat of action have been toned down at his request. “My friends and I didn’t swear much in those days,” he explains. “It was the British army which taught me all about swearing, after the war.”
This reminds me of an error I made in an early draft of the book, where I wrongly assumed that Stephen’s father – a proud Englishman in a houseful of French women – would, before the Occupation, have been thrilled to welcome British soldiers to his home in the rue du Sac. But not a bit of it. As a former Tommy himself, Grady Père was, Stephen recalls, torn between wanting to be hospitable, and fearful of the corrosive influence that a bunch of squaddies might wield upon his impressionable children.
As I was reminded again and again whilst discussing Stephen early family life with him – he grew up with a British father and a French mother, aunt and grandmother as well as his three siblings all under the same roof – the relationship between relaxed Anglo-Saxon attitudes and starchier French ones has ever been a fascinating one, especially in families with a parent on either side of the divide.