Little White Lies – Locations
Like all my other books, Little White Lies is a way to explore parts of the world that I’ve either visited, longed to visit or want to know more about. Although I certainly didn’t live in Germany in the 1930s, fortunately there’s so much wonderful literature about that period that I found it easy to transpose the cities and places that I do know backwards in time – and although the same isn’t quite true for places like Lomé, the small-but-vibrant capital city of Togo, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Lomé in the 1970s and again, much of what I write about was influenced by my time as a teenager there. I’d like to live in Martha’s Vineyard, never mind just visit it, but that seems about as unlikely as traveling back in time . . . never mind, I do hope I’ve managed to capture its unique blend of natural beauty and unimaginable wealth!
Santiago de León de Caracas (to give it its full name), is the capital city of Venezuela. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a rich history of immigration – from indigenous peoples, the original settlers of the territory, to later waves of Spanish conquistadores, pirates, European immigrants, Jews, Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Indian . . . you name it, they’ve come to Caracas and settled, creating a gastronomic culture that’s second to none. The city I focus on is the city of the 1950s just after the Second World War – the city’s Jewish population swelled after the Holocaust in Europe, bringing new families, skills and cultural wealth to the small-but-established existing Jewish community – and it’s where Lionel Harburg finds beautiful, gracious Embeth Hausmann, recently returned from college in the United States.
Brash, bold, confident . . . Tel-Aviv-Yafo is a city that straddles two worlds, umpteen cultures, a bitterly divisive history with swagger and aplomb. From its gleaming seaside high-rise towers to the souks and mosques of Old Jaffa, it’s a city that’s constantly on the move, constantly re-making itself, constantly changing. It’s home to half a million people but it’s got an energy and zest for life of a city of many, many more. White City, where Rebecca and Julian own a flat, is the world’s largest collection of Bauhaus buildings – and for a former architect, there’s nothing more fascinating to visit and write about – I hope you share my enthusiasm! (A wee tip: for a truly captivating read about Tel Aviv, there’s no better place to start than Linda Grant’s The Cast Iron Shore. Grab it now! And if you’re looking for a film that depicts the city in all its beautiful intensity, try Walk on Water . . . touching and poetic at the same time.)
Growing up in Ghana as I did in the 1970s and 80s when the only assurance in the shops was that there’d be nothing in them (truly!), my father used to drive the 350km along the coast to Lomé, the capital city of French-speaking neighbouring Togo, to do our monthly groceries. For me the most vivid thing about the journey was the way everyone stopped speaking English exactly at the border and picked up in French once you’d passed through. It really was a case of ‘have a safe journey’ in one breath and ‘bienvenue à Togo’ in the other. Lomé in those days was full of cafés, open-air markets and the biggest swimming pool I’d ever seen at the Hotel Tropicana, a couple of miles outside the city. It’s grown enormously since then but it still retains something of the quaint, Francophone sleepiness that I remember. And of course every football fan in the world now knows where Togo is, thanks to Adebayor (not that I’m a football fan).
Hmmm. What can one say about Martha’s Vineyard other than ‘sublime’, ‘stunning’, ‘sumptuous’ and ‘very sexy.’ Of course there are other sides to it – not everyone on Martha’s Vineyard lives in a home worth over $10million – just most of ‘em. Housing prices on the ‘Vineyard’ (as it’s locally known) are 96% higher than the national average. Gulp. But it’s also easy to understand why: it’s seriously, seriously beautiful. And peaceful. And tranquil. And understated (in a sublimely wealthy kind of way!) And exactly the kind of spot someone like Tash who’s worked so hard for her fortune and who’s come from so little, would want for her perfect holiday home.