Sarah asked Helen Simonson:

What books etc. did you use to research "The Summer Before The War"?

Helen Simonson Dear Sarah, Five years of constant research have made me almost swear never to try a historical setting again. How does Hilary Mantel do it? Of the history books I waded through, I'll mention David Fromkin's "Europe's Last Summer and Richard Van Eden "Boy Soldiers of The Great War". Many memoirs and biographies ranged from Agatha Christie's Autobiography to "Henry James at Work" by the wonderful Theodora Bosanquet. I also used primary sources. I spent many hours in the British Library reading newspapers and magazines of 1914 in an attempt to feel the war approach just as Agatha Kent might have done. But every aspect of the novel, from Triumph motorcycles, and the culture of British Romanies, to fashion and food, all required me to burrow far into interesting subjects. Then came the hardest part...putting my research firmly in the back of my brain and writing the story unweighted by all my newfound expertise. Nothing kills a novel faster than the author showing off research and I was still paring away fascinating true details well into copy editing. If only you knew how much I know about the history of Rye's waterworks and sewer systems!! Thanks for writing and Happy New Year 2016.

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