Ella Carey | The House By The Lake - History and Inspiration
April 1, 2016
THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE is
an incredibly special book to me. It was inspired by
three things: a trip that I took to Berlin, a true story about an old palace in
the former East Germany and another true story about a woman who abandoned her
apartment in Paris in 1940 on the eve of the Nazi invasion, leaving an un-spoilt
treasure trove which was only re-discovered when she died in 2010.
All of these things left me asking questions- and with a real desire to not only
find out more, but to get to some sort of truth and understanding about the
past- and in order to do that, I wanted to delve beyond the facts. So- I wrote a
But first, what were the facts that I had?
Let’s start with Paris. In 2010, an apartment was re-discovered in the ninth
arrondissement that had been abandoned for seventy years after the owner- a
‘Madame de Florian’- fled on the eve of the Nazi invasion. There is nothing
unusual about the fact that the woman never returned to Paris, but what was
extraordinary, was the fact that Madame de Florian left her apartment exactly as
it was in the 1890s- it was the perfect replica of a Belle Époque courtesan’s
home. The apartment was finally discovered to have belonged to Mme de Florian’s
grandmother, an infamous courtesan or ‘demimondaine’ who went by the name of
‘Marthe de Florian.’ Everything was still in place. The stunned executors of the
estate described their experience as like stepping into ‘Sleeping Beauty’s
apartment.’ What was more- a beautiful, unsigned, undocumented portrait of
Marthe de Florian was found on the wall, and it turned out to be the work of the
famous Belle Époque artist, Giovanni Boldini. The painting was sold at auction
for 2.1 million Euros, hundreds of bloggers picked up on the story, and I wrote
a novel about it- Paris Time Capsule. I wanted to write more about my character,
Isabelle de Florian, in The House By The Lake.
As for the stunning old palace just out of Berlin- that also forms a big part of
the setting and history in The House By The Lake. The true story behind that, is
that a friend of mine’s mother grew up in the 1930s in a palace that was just
out of Berlin. Her family had to flee just before the Soviet occupation in 1946.
The family were the biggest landowners in Prussia. They were bankers who helped
fund the Napoleonic Wars and their palace and lifestyle were just incredible. I
have read my friend’s mother’s memoirs of her life, growing up in the old palace
in the 1930s. But the palace fell into disrepair during the Soviet era, it
remains pock marked with bullet holes and is only now just starting to be
restored by its new owner. Everything that my friend’s family owned was looted-
marble floors were stripped, chandeliers pulled down, priceless works of art
were removed, and the butler took off with all the silver!
I went to Berlin in the winter of 2013. I was just struck by the history that is
around every corner. No matter where you go, there are reminders of the Second
World War and the Soviet occupation of half of that great city. Berlin is a
deeply moving place to visit, and I was fortunate enough to take a tour through
the old East with an ex-film maker. We started talking about what on earth would
possibly cause someone to turn to Nazism, and also, how the German people dealt
with the shocking fallout after the war. I delve into both questions in The
House By The Lake, and my gorgeous, upright character Max finds himself having
to deal with both of these problems himself.
The book is written as a dual narrative- set partly in Paris and Germany during
the 1930s, and partly in 2010, when my lead character, Anna, suddenly learns
that she is part of a German aristocratic family who lost everything in 1946.
Her grandfather Max, who has never, ever, talked about his past, asks Anna to
return to the former East Germany to retrieve something he left in the family’s
palace… in 1940.
Once there, Anna becomes determined to solve the mystery surrounding her
grandfather’s past and seeks to find the real answers as to why he left Germany
for the US, never to return. Anna finds that all of this is linked to an
abandoned apartment in Paris.
I hope you enjoy THE HOUSE
BY THE LAKE. I loved writing this novel.
Are there any secret histories that you know of that intrigue you? Or you are
welcome to just leave a comment about the secret histories that I have written
about right here.
Thank you to Fresh Fiction for having me here today!
What is a mystery you would love to solve? Tell us and you could win a copy
of THE HOUSE BY THE
Ella Carey is a writer and Francophile who claims Paris as her second
home. She has been studying French since the age of five, and she has degrees in
music and English. Her debut novel, The Paris Time Capsule, has
captured global attention and her second novel, The House By The Lake,
was released on March 29th, 2016. She lives with her two children and a
pair of Italian greyhounds in Hobart.
Anna is content with her well-ordered life in San Francisco. But her world is
turned upside down when her beloved grandfather, Max, reveals a startling
secret: Anna is part of an aristocratic family who lost everything during World
War II. What’s more, Max was forced to leave behind a precious item over seventy
years ago in their estate in old Prussia. It’s now his ardent wish that Anna
Anna burns with questions as she heads for Germany: What
memento could be so important to her grandfather? And why did he keep their
history hidden? As she searches for answers, she finds herself drawn to Wil, a
man who may hold the key to unlock the mystery. Together they discover that her
family’s secrets are linked with an abandoned apartment in Paris, and these
secrets go deeper than she ever imagined.
Alternating between 1930s Europe
and the present, The House by the Lake illuminates the destiny of a
family caught in the tumult of history.
27 comments posted.
Re: Ella Carey | The House By The Lake - History and Inspiration
(Marissa Yip-Young 10:41am April 1)
I would love to read this book .I love mysteries and thrillers . I don't know of any mystery that I could solve , but I do know that I must read this book . Thanks for this chance to win your book .
(Joan Thrasher 11:09am April 1)
Some years back, I read an article about an
archaeological dig in England where they excavated a
drained pond. Two items that were found were from the
English Civil War period - a high class cavalier sword,
which was broken in two, and a standard issue puritan
sword, both of which had been thrown into the pond at
what was probably the same time. Darned if there isn't a
cracking story behind this, but it's a mystery that won't
ever be solved. It still bugs me that I'll never know
(Deb Philippon 4:36pm April 1)
I would love to be able to solve the mystery of what happened
to Stacy Peterson. (I mean, c'mon, we know that Drew had
something to do with her disappearance...)
(Jamie Stein 5:19pm April 1)
The House By The Lake interests me since it is captivating,
memorable, unforgettable and set during a meaningful and
profound era World War 11 and the present. The name Max is
precious to me since my grandfather and grandson have that
name. This novel sounds like a treasure.
(Sharon Berger 5:31pm April 1)
History is full of secrets, most of which are not even known to exist today--because they were after all, secrets, and the people directly involved frequently did not survive long enough to even pass the knowledge along. There are also the ones which ARE known, and just might someday be solved--just think of Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa, for 2 very famous secrets!
(Cindy Gowett 5:13pm April 2)
Sounds like a good book. I would love to read it.
(Wilma Frana 10:49am April 3)
I love anything ww2 so I know I will like this book. I can't wait to read.
(Nissa Evans 1:38pm April 3)
I think every family has some secrets, just some are more dark than others.
(Don Burkhead 2:57pm April 3)
I would love to solve the mystery if the Bermuda Triangle.
(Laurice McClung 4:11pm April 3)
Sounds so intriguing, and what better way to uncover the past and family secrets than with a mysterious man by your side! By the time she's all through he may know more about her than she even hoped! I would be super excited to win a copy of this wonderful book!
(Debbie Northcutt 5:51pm April 3)
secrets, aristocrats, WWII, mystery all sounds enticing!
(Melody Kaufman 9:38pm April 3)
I want to solve the mystery of who killed Jon
(Melissa Basnight 6:54am April 4)
What happened to Amelia Earhardt.
(Laurie Bergh 12:07pm April 4)
Is there really gold in the mountains of Arizona (based on the legend of The Lost
(Joy Isley 2:14pm April 4)
If the Vikings really did land in the Americas, did they try to colonize or just visit? If they colonized, what happened to them?
(Michael Burkhead 3:02pm April 4)
I would lie to solve the mystery of General Patton's death.
(Marilyn Collins 5:13pm April 4)
I don't have any mystery that I liked to solve. Thanks for
(Jana B 6:01pm April 4)
I don't have any mysteries to solve! However, I do love reading mysteries!
(Lily Shah 6:31pm April 4)
year long party
where we came from
(Elaine Fisher 8:31pm April 4)
I would like to solve the mystery of whether there are more trwasures in
King Tut's tomb.
(Jackie Wisherd 10:15pm April 4)
This sounds really good thanks for the review I'm looking forward to reading this.
(Pen Wilfort 3:18am April 5)
I would like to find out how and why one of my ancestors moved to rural Louisiana.
(Anna Speed 12:52pm April 5)
I would erally like to know what happened to Amelia Earhart. I've always hoped that her story would finally have an ending. She was such a courageous lady, and she was so far beyond her time.
(Sandy Fielder 1:12pm April 5)
I would love to see what kinds of mysteries are hiding in my
(Jennifer Boyett 1:29pm April 5)
I am so interested in what happened to so much of
Germany's pre-Hitler history, the belongings of people
hidden away in so many places. My Dad was with the
Canadian Army in Europe, and I remember the day he came
home exactly, it is etched in my mind. He will be 99 in
May. My husband is a WWII collector of vehicles, gas
masks of many of the countries involved, does remembrance
day displays in schools and museums every year with
information sent to him by the gov't. especially where
animals were involved. But I have a separate mystery,
too. Though my great-grandfather was born in Canada,
there appears to be no information in records about him
other than the death of his mother. It's very strange.
Even stranger is that a distant cousin & I have the same
photograph with the same dates of who is purportedly our
great-great-grandmother but each photograph has a
different name. Spooky, right?
(Betty Gelean 6:43pm April 5)
I would love to solve some of mysteries of what happened to some of my relatives on our family tree
(Julie Parrish 7:33pm April 5)
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