The author of the book aiming to unite Watford through a love of reading has reflected on the importance of weaving the town’s print history into her novel.

Former Watford resident Katharine McMahon’s The Hour of Separation is the subject of the One Town, One Book campaign. This is part of the Watford Together initiative, which has been helping to bring the community together during the coronavirus pandemic.

The novel is set in Watford and a fictional farm in Belgium during two world wars and in her blog the Sunday Times best-selling author has explained why the town’s print history is so central to her work.

She said: “Once I’d decided to locate the novel partly in Watford, a print-town, it was obvious that a main character, the shell-shocked Ted Geering, would work in the print.

“He meets his wife there, just before WW1, and in the next war she takes up her job as ledger clerk again.

“My Belgian heroine, Estelle, visits Ted at Sun Engraving, and later remembers with fondness the smell of ink and chemicals, and the clean purposefulness of the factory spaces there.

Watford Observer:

The Sun Engraving Company

“I acknowledge a wonderful website at the end of the book: It’s a treasure trove of pictures, anecdotes, biography and discussion; to an historical novelist, a wonderful gift.

“The picture gallery helped me work out what Sun Engraving and its employees looked like in the 1930s, what people wore, the sense of ‘family’ with outings, picnics and Christmas parties – even a rose garden.

“The trick, when writing historical fiction, is not the detail the writer puts in, but the detail she takes out.

“To understand Ted’s work in the print, what happened there during the war, the pattern of his life, how it felt to be his daughter, took days of research and reading and burrowing through the archives of St Bride’s Library of the Print. And all for a few lines of writing in the book. But hopefully the reader feels completely secure in the truth of Ted Geering’s experience.”

Watford Observer:

As part of the One Book, One Town initiative, the author is hosting virtual book clubs with Watford’s elected Mayor Peter Taylor.

There are two sessions next week, from 7pm to 8pm on Tuesday and Thursday. Email if you are interested in taking part.