THE WALLED GARDEN HAD ITS second anniversary May 17 and once again, I’m feeling so blessed by all the love and support it’s gotten. I recently enjoyed zooming into the Between the Covers Book Club and talking with a lovely group of women meeting at a Barnes & Noble in Chico, California. Seeing The Walled Garden on a list of 22 Best Garden Novels by Book Girls Guide on Pinterest was another recent highlight. It makes me so happy to see the book continuing to go out into the world and find its readers.

And for those who have kindly asked, I’m happy to say the new book is progressing well. With the encouragement of my brilliant book coach Nancy Rawlinson, I’ve embraced a new writing schedule that takes advantage of my most productive times (mornings) and has boosted my word count in an amazing way. I’ve been asked many times if the new book is a sequel to TWG, and though it’s set in the same world, I’ve always answered no. But this month, I began to see a glimmer of a connection between this story and the Blackspear Gardens, so stay tuned for more on that!

Books and anniversaries have been on my mind lately. This month also marked the one-hundred-and-first anniversary of one of my all-time favorite fictional characters, Lord Peter Wimsey, who debuted in Dorothy L. Sayers’ classic mystery Whose Body? on May 11, 1923 and who eventually appeared in my favorite mystery, possibly my favorite novel ever, Gaudy Night, in 1935. Someday soon, I’m going to do a whole post on my deep love for Lord Peter.

And I can only hope people will still be reading The Walled Garden 101 years from now!

Our 43rd wedding anniversary is coming up on June 6, which also happens to be the 80th anniversary of D-Day. As part of my research for the new novel, I’ve been reading a lot about World War II lately. The novel Sisters of the Resistance by Christine Wells led me to the amazing story of Catherine Dior, sister to the famous French designer Christian Dior, who risked her life to defy the Nazis as part of the French Resistance. Her story is beautifully told in Miss Dior by Justine Picardie, a book I absolutely could not put down. It’s a harrowing read because in 1944, Catherine was betrayed, tortured by the Gestapo in Paris and ultimately sent to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany on the last train of prisoners deported out of France before the war ended. She spent a ghastly year there (and at other slave labor camps). Somehow, she survived, though when she finally returned to Paris in April 1945 she was so emaciated that her brother Christian did not recognize her.

The books that led me to Miss Dior

Somehow, I had never fully grasped that D-Day was not the actual end of the war; it was only the beginning of the end. I didn’t realize that it still took more than two months after D-Day for the Allies to liberate Paris. Unfortunately, at that point, knowing their defeat was certain, the Nazis in France became more vicious and ruthless than ever. Catherine was betrayed by a fellow Frenchwoman in July 1944 which led to her torture and imprisonment. Paris was liberated on 25 August 1944.

We visited Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, when we were in France in 2022. It’s incredibly moving, and even when you see the rows upon rows upon rows of white crosses (some engraved with Stars of David) curving down those green hills to the sea, it’s still hard to fully grasp the magnitude of the sacrifice. Or to imagine what our world might look like today if they hadn’t succeeded.

The American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, just a tiny fraction of the many crosses there

Catherine Dior’s story haunts me because of course, I wonder if I would have been courageous enough to do what she did—and to survive paying the price for it. But here’s the really miraculous thing about Catherine: she lived . . . until 2008! She was only 27 in 1945, and somehow, after all those horrible experiences, she came home and put together a life.

Catherine Dior in 1945

I think you can see the shadows of the horrors she’d experienced in her eyes. Though she testified at the Nuremberg trials after the war, she rarely spoke about her experiences. But she hated hearing German spoken and she never went to Germany again.

It makes me happy to know that the garden was part of her recovery. Catherine moved to Provence (near where she and Christian had grown up) and spent the rest of her life growing roses for his perfumes, including the one named for her, Miss Dior. I became obsessed with the scent while I was reading her story, so I ordered a tiny bottle of it on Amazon to see if I liked it—and I do! It’s sweet (but not too sweet), soft and powdery, and it smells like roses and lilies of the valley, two of my favorite flowers. I’ve been wearing it lately in remembrance of Catherine and her courage.

I want to close by saying Happy Anniversary to my dear Kurt–who knew, all those years ago, that we’d make it to 43!

At Multonomah Falls, Oregon in April

And in this Memorial season, may we never forget the sacrifices of the men and women who suffered and died to preserve for us the world and the freedoms we enjoy today.


Featured image: Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

Catherine Dior: from Miss Dior: A Wartime Story of Courage and Couture by Justine Picardie

All other photos my own