By David Tingley
All sorts of books are written for all sorts of reasons. Rosie Longhurst (pictured) has been writing for sixteen years in order to keep alive the memories of her much-loved homeland; the Seychelles.
Rosie, who lives and works in Cuckfield as the estate manager at a retirement development, was born on the northern coast of Mahe Island in the picturesque seaside village of Beau-Vallon. As part of a large family in a small community Rosie knew something of growing up where “you couldn’t get away with much”! Everyone knew everyone else and there was a strict sense of church community with both Catholic and Anglican believers in the village.
When she left school Rosie trained and worked as a nurse, working in the local hospital. She also had a long career in the hotel industry and ran her own ladies-wear business.
However, she moved to the UK in 1995 and found that she missed the Seychelles very much, and not just for the climate and sandy beaches! As a therapeutic method to help her get over her homesickness, Rosie began researching the history of the islands and writing about it in her own time.
Through her research she discovered so much about the republic’s past that she couldn’t stop writing more and more about it. She read not only historical accounts but also personal stories of what life was like in the Seychelles many years before she’d known life there. It was with this knowledge that she began to compile ideas for a novel about seven years ago. While her husband, Stan Longhurst, was out on Sunday afternoons playing golf, she could easily spend four or five hours focused on her writing. Which is exactly what she did.
‘Echoes from the Oasis’ is Rosie’s first novel but, such is the unusual subject matter, that a US publisher, Raider, soon offered her a contract.
The story features the lead character, Anna Savy, growing up on the islands and opens on her 16th birthday in 1912. Over one hundred years earlier the Franco-British war raged as two empires sought to take control of the international trade route. What was left was an emerging small nation being forged from its French descendants, African slave roots and the new British rulers. But life was a struggle for many and Anna, a young nurse, experiences the joys and pains of the people at the time. None more so than the arrival of the First World War and the devastating consequences that would have on Anna’s young life.
The book also touches on the sensitive issues of the changing roles of women in those days, the conflict of the British and Irish working together in the hospital and, of course, forbidden love for the 18 year old.
“I’ve had a ball writing it,” Rosie explains. “The historical aspects of the island are fascinating and so I would go off and investigate it, and then work it into the storyline.” One such concept was the vital interpreter roles that Seychellois men undertook in Europe during WWI.
Above all though, the book is an extraordinary way for one woman to not lose touch with ‘home’. Rosie dedicates the book, which was published last month, to her parents. A website, www.seychelles-author-in-cuckfield.com, has ongoing news about this story and the sequel to come. ‘Echoes from the Oasis’ is penned under her maiden name A.R. Tirant and is available from Waterstones in Haywards Heath as well as other book retailers. Twenty percent of profits from the sale of the novel is to be donated to charities in UK and Seychelles.