Walk to Paradise Garden takes the reader on a life journey that spans an entire century. The catalyst for my story’s premise was, in part, a result of my interest in various individuals who thrived on both sides of 1914, such as Maestro Arturo Toscanini who interacted with the last Czar of Russia and lived to observe the gyrations of Elvis Presley. I am fascinated by the transformations on every level that followed in the wake of WWI. Not only did I place my characters, John and Evelyne Armitage, in a position to witness such upheaval—from their meeting at the Ypres Salient in 1915 to their deaths at the end of the century—I’m afraid I put them through a bit of hell along the way. Walk to Paradise Garden is a story about enduring love (think: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks), about horrific tragedy and recovery. (Editor John Breeden II preferred Walk to Paradise Garden over The English Patient and Love in the Time of Cholera.)
I encourage the reader to take note of the gardens motif. First of all, enjoy their use as backdrops to key scenes. Consider too the significance of their metaphorical use as the story unfolds. For added pleasure, listen to (perhaps on YouTube) the music that inspired this novel: “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” by Frederick Delius and “Make Our Garden Grow” by Leonard Bernstein. You may also appreciate the “Liebestod” (the “love death”) from Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner.
In addition to my research of the Great War era, I enjoyed delving into 1930s France, the Folies Bergere, as well as the underground organizations operating deep within the heart of Paris.
Next, the 1940s: Why were the world wars conducive to romance? London during Hitler’s Blitz proved an exciting setting for young love. Armitage’s son Bertie takes center stage for this interlude. In addition to that, the rescue of Jewish children via Kindertransport dovetails well with John and Evie’s ongoing support of orphans. Their love for mentoring disadvantaged children grows into an international endeavor from this point. Be it their initial orphans school or their global enterprise, Armitage House takes on a character all its own.
Corporate betrayal and murder in 1950s Chicago are only two of the shocking events the Armitages face along the way. A special-needs boy plays a role in Evie Armitages’ recovery from debilitating grief.
Exotic Madagascar provides its own bend in the road for John and Evie, leading to the finale of their walk to paradise garden. Their legacy, however, lives on.
John B. Campbell, January 13, 2013