Arandora Star

         

  • Read about Natalie Dye and her new novel on the Arandora Star, based on her family history:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Natalie Dye has worked as a journalist for more than 28 years, writing for national newspapers and major TV and women’s magazines in the UK, Dubai and Australia. Her work has been syndicated worldwide, and she spent seven years as a Contributing Editor for Cosmopolitan magazine in London. She is currently a staff features writer on TV Choice, Britain’s top-selling magazine, and its sister publication Total TV Guide, and a media consultant at Kingston University.   

    Natalie lives in Surrey with her husband Gino, an art director; their two sons Jasper, 20 and Justin, 17; and two adorable cats. It was through Gino that she first heard about the tragedy of the Arandora Star. His Italian grandfather, Giovanni had come to Britain in the 1920s and built a thriving cafe business after starting out selling ice-cream from a hand-cart.

    During the war Giovanni was taken abruptly from the cafe he owned in Wales, placed in horrific conditions in an internment camp and deported on the Arandora Star, having committed no crime. When the ship was torpedoed, most of the Italians on board were lost at sea, and Giovanni's wife Luisa was left with four young children to care for, the cafe to run, and no idea of his fate.

     

    Stunned by the despicable treatment of internees and their families by the British government, Natalie began researching the events of 1940. She became determined to write about it, and chose to set the fictional hero and heroine in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, her parents' home. Natalie’s father John, later a senior University academic, began his career changing the fairy lights on the seafront.

    Research for the book was frequently put on hold, as over the years Natalie’s son Jasper underwent more than 25 life-threatening operations at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital, and in the USA, for complications following a brain tumour. But Jasper pulled through, went to university, and finally she had the time to write it.

     

    Thanks to the passion and determination of her agent Sonia Land at Sheil Land, and the incredible support of Natalie's adored sons, husband, family and friends, the novel will be published this autumn. Her hope is that, at last, the human story of the suffering of so many Italian families - and others who experienced the horrors of internment - will finally be heard.

 

  

A Summary of the book by its author:

It is 1940. Lily, who is in her 20s, is trapped in a deeply unhappy marriage to Albert, an older, violent man who is tormented by his experience of shell-shock in the First World War. Lily finds comfort in the colourful characters who frequent the town’s Italian cafe, becoming close friends with the owner, Maria, and her son Antonio, a widower with a young son.

The relationship with Albert deteriorates with his jealousy of Lily and he brutally rapes her. She finds the strength to leave Albert and her friendship with Antonio soon grows into love. But their happiness is overshadowed by the spectre of Albert who is intent on destroying both of their lives. He seizes his chance when Italy enters the Second World War.

Antonio is arrested, interned and held in appalling conditions in various makeshift camps with many other innocent Italian men living in Britain. Maria and Lily are desperate for news but they are reassured when they receive a letter from Antonio, explaining that he is Warth Mills camp, a derelict cotton mill in Lancashire. He asks them to send food and clothes .

But Antonio and some of  the other Italian men in the camp are put on the Arandora Star, a vast cruise ship hastily refitted for war, which is to take them to Canada. On board are Italian, German, Austrian and Jewish internees. That night, the Arandora Star sails unescorted and without a red cross to indicate she is carrying civilians.

At dawn, a German U-boat returning home, and with only one faulty torpedo left, spots her and Nazi captain Gunther Prien fires his last torpedo. Within half an hour, the Arandora Star is sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Although the story has been fictionalised, the tragedy of Arandora Star and the internment of Italians have been extensively researched and are historically accurate. The husbands and sons who were rounded up under Churchill’s demand to ‘collar the lot’ caused great suffering and grief to the families that remained. The Commander of the Warth Mills camp was subsequently imprisoned, and in the following years tens of thousands of Italians had been released as the internment policy was quietly dropped.
 
Natalie Dye, October 2013.
 
 
 
 
For more info please visit the author's page at