I knew I wanted to set a novel here...
Talking about the genesis of The Last Room, Danuta Reah described her first wisit to Łódź, and said: "The city I found was industrial and run down, but it was also beautiful. The mansions of the great industrialists still stand in the centre of the city, the old graveyards tell its story, and the great forest, Łagiewniki, comes right into the city. I fell in love with Łódź, with its flowers, its old buildings, its claim to the longest pedestrianised street in Europe, Piotrkowska, filled with shops, flowers and witty statues of the great and good from the history of the city, including Arthur Rubenstein sitting at his piano. And don't forget the Łódź Film School, where some of the greatest film makers of the 20th and 21st century trained. Łódź is a magic city." Some of the scenes in the book are illustrated below:
The day Dariusz Erland met Ania Milosz was dull, with heavy clouds in a grey sky. He was on his way to work, taking a detour through the old Jewish burial ground. The leaves on the trees were starting to change colour and the grass was long and uncut. The cemetery had an odd, haunting beauty. It was a peaceful place - a place for the dead. Neither Catholicism nor Judaism allowed cremation, so flesh and bone fed the tangled grass and the overhanging trees.
She saw him coming towards her, and as he reached her, she began to walk with him. "I found the Rubinstein grave," she said. "Thank you." Beside the path there were deep pits in the ground. They lay in a line of six along the wall - rough, empty hollows that could have been freshly dug but for the grass growing inside them. "What are these?"
"They're from the last days of the war. When the Nazis emptied the ghetto, they kept a few people alive to clear up after them. They made the men dig their own graves, but the Red Army arrived before they could kill these last few."
Even now he found something chilling about their stark presence, as if the ghosts of the men who had dug them were standing there in silent witness.
The chapels were deep in the forest. It was summer, and trees were heavy with leaf. The paths Dariusz and Ania had walked had been in shade, but the clearing was full of sunlight, the timbers of the ancient buildings glowing with warmth, two wooden Baroque chapels dating back to the 18th century.
And one from St. Abbs Head, in Scotland:
He walked back along the cliff path, the sea below him gleaming in the night. He could hear the sound of the swell as it washed against the rocks. The sky was clear, the stars blazing out with icy clarity. For a moment, he imagined he was walking back to the cottage with Sarah, still caught in the undercurrent of sensuality that had marked their goodbye, but then his thoughts moved elsewhere, troubled by the conversation he had had with his daughter that morning, and by the ominous headlines he had glimpsed in the newspaper.
The Last Room was published by Caffeine Nights on 5 June 2014.
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