Because of You by Helene Fermont is released today by Fridhem Publishing.
Because of You spans 36 years in the life of Hannah Stein, a Swedish teenager who arrives in London, at the tail end of the disco era, for a gap year before embarking on a teaching career. The people she meets change the course of her life irrevocably and the novel charts her changing personal and professional fortunes over the next three decades. Because of You is about love, coming of age, friendship, bereavement, stillbirth and rape. Its themes include redemption, acceptance, fidelity and family. Because of You is a story that every woman can relate to.
Thanks to Hélene, Fridhem and Palamedes PR, we have an exclusive extract to share with you. Enjoy.
As soon as Easter and Passover were over, Hannah organised a meeting between her grandmother and friends. “I booked a table at Cosmo,” she told the girls. “Ella and Granny’s old friends Katja and Tanya will be joining us.” May was approaching and with it, sunny hot weather. The ladies made the effort to look their best.
Opting to wear a light blue dress, her hair in a soft shade of red perfectly matching her lips, Zipporah admired Tanya and Katja’s bright kaftans, the latter wearing a turban to conceal her loss of hair due to old age. Meanwhile, Hannah assisted dressing Ella, choosing a lavender dress with matching jacket. Rosie and Sanna also made the effort to dress up.
Seated at the large table in the buzzing restaurant overlooking the crowd around them, Rosie kept thinking everyone looked wonderful. “You look years younger than your actual age!” she blurted out, referring to each by surname.
“Please don’t! Unless you refer to us by first name, we’ll feel ancient,” Zipporah whispered in her ear.
It was difficult choosing from the extensive menu. “I’m postponing my diet,” said Sanna. This place’s worth it.”
Nodding her agreement, Katja replied, “You’re a girl close to my own heart. Women are wrong assuming being thin as a stick’s attractive – men prefer a fuller, feminine figure!” Her Russian accent matched that of her friends’. Beaming, Sanna wholeheartedly agreed.
“I’d never contemplate cutting down on my food, neither would Tanya,” Katja added, winking at the larger woman seated next to her.
“Hence the kaftans!” The latter’s laughter echoed in the room, attracting a lot of attention from the other guests. “You must attend one of my exhibitions,” Tanya continued. “Did Zipporah mention I only started to paint in my eighties?”
Watching her old friend, Zipporah replied, “Hannah’s seen your bold splashes of colour – all of which enhance an at times dull world!”
Roaring with laughter, Tanya addressed them all. “I want you and your young friends to join me in one of my ‘London By Night’ outings. It’s an excellent opportunity to familiarise yourselves with the capital! My combined chef and driver knows the city like the palm of his hand.”
“Do you recall the first time you came along, darling?” Zipporah asked her granddaughter.
“I most certainly do. I felt as though London belonged to me – nobody else.”
“Then that’s settled! Life is for living, darlings. Will you be gracing us with your company, dear?” Tanya raised her glass in a toast to Ella, who was shaking her head.
“I’d better not, seeing as I usually get queasy in a car.”
The meal turned out to be a great success, Rosie for once keeping her thoughts to herself and listening to the ladies reminiscing about the past.
The following Saturday evening Tanya’s chauffeur collected everyone outside the entrance of Zipporah’s building, wearing a formal uniform and cap.
“My name’s Leo, Mrs Levy’s driver and chef. I wish you a pleasant night.” He was clearly in his sixties, judging by the glasses and grey hair. As he assisted them into the large, black limousine, the girls felt as if they’d been transported to another planet – one inhabited by the very rich.
Rosie felt exhilarated. From the comfort of Tanya’s limousine, she stared out at the impressive properties in Park Lane. “I never saw anything like it!” she marvelled, sipping champagne out of a crystal glass.
“What’s the verdict, darlings? It’s not every day you get the chance to be in the company of such distinguished old broads!” Leaning closer towards them, Zipporah kissed their cheeks.
Uncorking another bottle of Dom Pérignon, Tanya had a wistful expression in her eyes. “All of us lost people we love in the Holocaust. It’s our duty to make the most of whatever remains of our lives, for them as much as for ourselves.” Filling up their glasses, she added, “You’ve such a lot to be grateful for, never forget it.”
Watching her closely, Rosie was close to tears. “How can you be so positive after everything you endured?” she asked in a low voice.
“Because you only get as much out of life as you put into it, darling.” Stroking her hand, Tanya smiled through her own tears.
It was almost midnight when Leo dropped them off outside Ella’s house, where they’d spend the night in Hannah’s room. Embracing the older ladies, the girls vowed to keep in touch.
“Thank you for the most magical night of my life – we’ll never forget it,” Sanna told them, following her friends up the path.
Born into a bilingual family (Swedish/English), Hélene Fermont enjoyed an idyllic childhood on the outskirts of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and a major cultural hub.
Growing up in the early 1970s, she enjoyed a brief musical career on Swedish TV and radio before pursuing a rewarding career as a therapist specialising in children with learning difficulties.
Hélene has lived in London for over 20 years but still regularly returns to her native Sweden, where the unspoiled scenery and tranquility help aid the creative process.
Hélene’s sensational debut novel, Because of You, features a Scandinavian-British narrative, in-depth psychological characterisations and a morally-complex plot spanning three turbulent decades in the life of its protagonists.
Aiming to eventually turn her writing into a full-time career, Hélene is currently hard at work on her second novel.
Because Of You by Hélene Fermont (Fridhem Publishing) is out on August 15, priced £9.99 in paperback and £3.99 as an eBook. Visit www.HeleneFermont.com