Thursday, September 28, 2017

Guest Post: Bringing a Forgotten Piece of History to Light by Judithe Little, Author of Wickwythe Hall

Please join me in welcoming Judithe Little to Let Them Read Books! Judithe's debut historical novel, Wickwythe Hall, will be published September 30, and I'm pleased to have her here today with a guest post about the little-known tragic incident that inspired her story. Read on, and enter to win a copy of Wickwythe Hall!

May 1940. The Germans invade France and the course of three lives is upended. Annelle LeMaire is a French refugee desperate to contact her Legionnaire brothers. Mabry Springs, American wife of a wealthy Brit, is struggling to come to terms with a troubled marriage and imminent German invasion. And Reid Carr, American representative of French champagne house Pol Roger, brings more than champagne to Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Their paths entwine when Churchill and his entourage take refuge at Wickwythe Hall, the Springs’ country estate hidden from the full moon and German bombers beneath a shroud of trees. There, as secrets and unexpected liaisons unfold, Annelle, Mabry and Reid are forever bound by the tragedy they share. 

Inspired in part by an actual confrontation between the British and French navies in July 1940, Wickwythe Hall is a story of love, loyalty, and the heartrending choices one is forced to make during wartime.

Bringing a Forgotten Piece of History to Light
by Judithe Little

True or false?

On July 3, 1940, in an Algerian port, the British navy fired on and destroyed the fleet of their allies, the French,  killing over 1,000 French sailors.

It seems unbelievable, but it’s true, a tragic confrontation between friends that inspired my novel, Wickwythe Hall.

So how did two allies, who just days before fought side by side against the Germans, come to arms?
In May 1940, Hitler’s troops invaded France and quickly overpowered the French and British armies. In June, just one month later, France surrendered.

As part of the armistice terms, France agreed to turn over its fleet to the Germans. Most of the French ships were across the Mediterranean at Mers el-Kébir, an Algerian port. There, they had a terrible decision to make: surrender their ships to the Germans, who would likely use them against the British, or violate the terms of the armistice and continue to fight. By continuing to fight, there would be certain repercussions at home. The lives of the French sailors’ families were at stake.

To the British, the fate of the French fleet was also life or death. With the French surrender, the British were left fighting the war alone. The US wanted no part of it. President Roosevelt had promised that American boys wouldn’t be sent to fight foreign wars, and it was an election year. Great Britain was barely hanging on as it was. If the Germans got hold of the French ships, overwhelming naval power would be in their hands. The British would have no chance.

The Royal Navy raced to Mers el-Kébir to present the French with an ultimatum: continue fighting or destroy the ships. And if the French wouldn’t destroy the ships themselves—another violation of the armistice—the British would do it for them.

On July 3, while Americans were preparing to celebrate the nation’s independence with parades and picnics, far away in Mers el-Kébir, the British and the French were at an impasse. The French, perhaps holding on to what pride they had left, refused the British ultimatum, angry that the British didn’t trust them. The British, worried German or Italian fleets would soon arrive and they’d be surrounded, opened fire. Almost all of the French ships were destroyed. Over 1,000 French sailors perished.

To the British, it was a horrible necessity. To the French, it was murder.  

In the US the next day, Americans watched parades. They waved flags as bands played patriotic songs. The war in Europe, then, seemed far away. Pearl Harbor wouldn’t be attacked until over a year later.

So many tragedies comprise the whole of World War II. In the shadow of some of the larger ones—the Occupation of France, the Holocaust, the Blitz, and more—smaller tragedies like the confrontation between the British and the French at Mers el-Kébir get lost. Wickwythe Hall combines fictional and real-life characters to bring this forgotten piece of history to light.

Praise for Wickwythe Hall:

“…a riveting and enlightening mix of history and fiction that puts a human face on the costs of war….engaging…”—Foreword Reviews

 “Judithe Little tackles war and masterfully boils it down to personal moral dilemmas.  Beautifully written and rich with atmosphere, the narrative strands are seamlessly interwoven into a top-notch story where characters are pushed to unforeseen places.  Little is a gifted writer who with remarkable insight confronts the timely questions of just how much loyalty is owed to country, family, and to preserving the past. Wickwythe Hall is a stellar achievement.” —Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree and The Promise

About the Author:

Moonfyre Photography
JUDITHE LITTLE grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After a brief time studying in France and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Writer’s League of Texas, Houston Writers Guild, and the Churchill Society. She lives with her husband and three children in Houston, Texas. This is her first novel. Learn more at

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  1. Wickwythe Hall sounds captivating, memorable, profound and since I am an avid reader of novels set during this era and WW2 ones especially h=this is a real treasure which I would enjoy. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway

  2. Thanks so much for the book. What an incredible story, I can't wait to read it.


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