Thursday 16 July 2015

Guest Post: My Favourite Inspiring Places in Malta by Mary Rensten.

My Favourite Inspring Places in Malta 
by Mary Rensten

Malta itself gave me the inspiration for my book, "Letters from Malta". Just by chance on my very first visit I found Imtarfa cemetery, and it was there, among the memorials to servicemen and Maltese civilians, including children, that an idea for a novel began to take shape in my mind. What an ordeal the Maltese people had endured in the Second World War. My heart went out to them and to the troops and airmen who had been stationed on the island.

Here are my favourite inspiring places in Malta … in no particular order.

1. Hagar Qim
An ancient temple site on a headland overlooking the sea. Loads in the guide books about it, the altars in a series of ‘rooms’ and the statuettes found here; what they can’t describe is the atmosphere. It is one of the most calming places I have ever visited, and because the stones don’t tower over you, as they do, for instance, at Stonehenge, and it has flowers growing out of the crevices of the limestone rocks, it feels very intimate.

2. Valletta Harbour
What a contrast! Industrial noise, massive fortifications, huge cranes and a collection of ships from all over the world. I took a boat trip around the harbour and I was inspired by the part it had played in WWII. This was where, in August 1942, what was left of the celebrated ‘Pedestal’ convoy limped to safety, bringing desperately needed fuel and food. ‘Another two weeks without supplies, and we would have had to surrender,’ the tour guide said. It sent shivers down my spine; it still does, thinking about it.

Photo credit: Valletta Harbour View: Mike Watson Photography ©

3. The WWII sculpture in the Howard Gardens
The Howard Gardens, near the main entrance to Mdina, are filled with Mediterranean plants; there are sculptures, too. I glanced at them in turn - a quick look and on to the next, as one does when there’s a lot to see - but then … one sculpture stopped me in my tracks: a depiction of crumbling buildings, stricken aircraft, emaciated bodies; people taken to the very edge of human endurance, yet triumphant. Yes, it was another reminder of WWII … a very poignant one. If you go to Mdina, spare it a few moments.

4. The walk along Marfa Ridge
This is such a lovely place, at the northern end of the island, high above the sparkling sea. My walk there began just beyond my hotel, on a sandy path lined in the spring with scented wild flowers, yellow, orange and red. It was a place untouched by time it seemed, until I turned a corner… and there was a wartime pill-box; no longer stark and forbidding, it was now dressed with lichen and grasses. I went on past a small cove, far below, the water all shades of blue, and then up on to the main part of the ridge, a long stretch of exposed heathland where birds sang and small creatures scuttled in the undergrowth. I was thankful for my wide-brimmed sunhat and my bottle of water, but I wouldn’t have missed that walk for anything.

5. Imtarfa Cemetery
This is where my book began, so it’s bound be one of my most inspiring places. It’s not at all like a military cemetery, with everything ‘standing to attention’; it’s more like an English country churchyard, a bit unkempt, with fallen cones of cypress trees here and there on the worn paths. It’s peaceful and cool, too. Although inspired, and with the idea for the novel beginning to form itself in my head, I did feel the need of an uplift when I left the cemetery. Fortunately the Ta’ Qali Craft Village was just round the corner - Maltese lace and glass, silver filigree jewellery: just what I needed … and, having been an airfield, Ta’ Qali gave me more background for the book!

Letters from Malta: a secret kept for 50 years by Mary Rensten

The perfect summer holiday read.

When Jane Thornfield finds an envelope hidden in her mother's bedroom drawer it heralds the beginning of a journey of discovery. Long buried family secrets are unearthed and Jane is forced to question her very identity.

Jane's search for the truth takes her to Malta, where she learns about the harsh realities of life during the Siege of Malta in the Second World War. But her attempts to unlock a fifty-year-old secret are met with suspicion and a wall of silence.

Letters from Malta is about a woman's quest to make sense of her present and her past. The setting of Malta is brought vividly to life in this moving, perceptive tale of love and loss.

"The story sweeps you along and the characters are so real." Suzannah Dunn, best-selling historical novelist (The Sixth Wife, The May Bride)

"I couldn't put this down. I couldn't wait to find out what had happened in Malta 60 years ago." Meg Alexander, romantic novelist

"It has just the right combination of drama, humour, romance and intrigue to make it perfect reading at home or on holiday." TAR Entertainment


Find Letters from Malta on Goodreads and Amazon

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