Travel to Skagen and find him. Give him my letter. Seek a better life, Marianne! Promise!’
Bound by a vow made to her dying mother, Marianne sells her few belongings and leaves Grimsby. Her destination? Denmark, where she will search for her father, Lars Christensen – the golden-haired fisherman her mother fell in love with many years before.
The journey will be long – and dangerous for a young girl travelling alone. As Marianne boards the fishing boat that will carry her across the North Sea, she wonders: will Denmark be the fairy-tale land she has dreamt of? Will she find happiness there? Will the father she has never met welcome the arrival of his illegitimate child?
And why didn’t he return for her mother, as he promised he would?
Between Two Seas is published by the Oxford University Press. It was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2008 and the Glen Dimplex New Writers Award in Ireland. It was also shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award and for the Hampshire Book Award.
Read a review of Between Two Seas at Lovereading4kids.co.uk
My mother grew up near Skagen in Denmark. We visited every year throughout my childhood, and I grew up with a love of the place and the art that was painted there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Many of the places I wrote about in Between Two Seas are real, and so are some of the characters, though I invented their personalities.
I visited Grimsby and Mablethorpe, and found a real address to give Marianne and her mother. I also found out about Hope House (which actually came into existence slightly later that I suggest in the book). In the early 20th century, a very strong fishing connection grew up between Skagen and Grimsby. I chose to anticipate that in my story. I wanted to set it in the time before Skagen was opened up by the building of a harbour and the extension of the railway.
The hotel Marianne stays in Frederikshavn (the Cimbria) really existed. Apparently it was so awful that the locals nicknamed it “the arse”.
Brøndums Hotel, on the other hand, is still open to guests in Skagen today. It’s a wonderful place, and I highly recommend their hot chocolate and cakes. I wrote some of the book whilst enjoying them.
With the exception of Perroy, all the artists are real people and I refer to real paintings they did, though I made free with the dates they were painted. Lars Kruse really was the captain of the lifeboat at that time and I read contemporary accounts (in Danish gothic script) of shipwrecks, rescues and of weddings to base my own story on.
Many of the painting I describe are exhibited at the Skagens Museum. You can also visit the Skagens By og Egns Museum to see some real examples of the houses I describe. The staff must have wondered why I visited so often in the summer of 2005 and sat for hours in the houses. I was trying to visualise what it must have been like to live in them.
My main characters are all fictional.