Thursday, 13 November 2014

"Omphalos" - A Preview of the Third Story - "The Infinite Labyrinth"

The third story in my forthcoming novel, Omphalos, is set at the turn of the 18th and 19th Centuries. "The Infinite Labyrinth" (the title was suggested by a line from William Blake's poem on the French Revolution) takes the form of a diary written by a young Frenchwoman, Suzanne de Beaubigny.

At the beginning of the story, Suzanne and her mother are living peacefully in their Normandy manor. Suzanne's father, a royalist, had been killed some years previously in a skirmish with revolutionary troops, and his widow allows her barn to be used by the Chouans (royalist insurgents). News comes to them one night that they have been betrayed - a carriage and a ship are provided to take them into safety and exile.

On the island of Jersey, Suzanne is drawn into a clandestine world of intrigue and espionage, aspects of which fascinate her mind, but other elements of which trouble her conscience profoundly.

"Sea coast promenade fashion," 1809. I came upon this image after I had written the story, but it is exactly as I imagine Suzanne (image is in the Public Domain).

Although Suzanne is a fictional character, La Correspondence, the spy network of which she becomes a part, is historically documented, and it is known that young women, as well as men, played an active part. At its centre was Philippe d'Auvergne, the Prince de Bouillon, a Jerseyman adopted into a French noble family, and serving as an officer in the Royal Navy.

Commodore Philippe d'Auvergne, Prince de Bouillon. Photo: (image is in the Public Domain).

"29th August, 1799

... Lieutenant Wilkes arrived to fetch me. I followed him along another labyrinth of corridors and up three staircases, emerging on the crenelated roof of the donjon. The prince was waiting for me there, now in full naval uniform, a telescope in his hand ... The sun was going down, the tide high, and the little flotilla sailed out from the port below us, led by the Atlantic. "Every evening they sail," said the prince, a note of sadness in his voice, "and each time I ask myself why. I will be up here again tomorrow morning, to watch them come back in. He handed me the telescope, and I watched as the topsails were hoisted on the Atlantic ... "All so that King Louis might be crowned. But it will never happen."

Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey, by Henry King Taylor (image is in the Public Domain). The castle was the headquarters of Philippe d'Auvergne's spy network.

A further visual preview of the story is available on Pinterest.

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

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