6 ISSUES FOR JUST £6 Subscribe to EDP Norfolk today CLICK HERE

Out of the shadows

13:00 04 May 2015

Norfolk Country Cottages founder Jane Bowlby. Picture: Ian Burt

Norfolk Country Cottages founder Jane Bowlby. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant

In her 95th year, Jane Bowlby of South Raynham is about to see the novel she wrote in the 1950s reprinted for today’s readers.

Norfolk Country Cottages founder Jane Bowlby. Picture: Ian BurtNorfolk Country Cottages founder Jane Bowlby. Picture: Ian Burt

“The brothers stopped talking to me, for some years actually,” says Jane Bowlby, a trace of what could be mistaken for naughtiness fleeting across her face as she recalls the family controversy that followed the original publication of her novel.

It is hard to believe that the intelligent, elegant nonagenarian would have caused any storm that so stretched her sibling ties, but in 1963 this was the reaction to Vain Shadow, a beautifully observed portrait of a family funeral and its repercussions. That the inspiration was clearly Jane’s own family’s reactions at the time of her father’s death, and that, although names were changed, personalities and events were very closely mirrored, certainly did cause great ructions.

Now, 52 years on, Jane - who wrote the book as Jane Hervey - is about to witness a remarkable return to print as Vain Shadow is published by Persephone Books. Encouraged by her daughter Rosalind, she submitted the book for consideration and was thrilled when it was immediately accepted. With her brothers long passed, there will not be the accompanying family scandal this time, but Jane hopes the story will chime with today’s readers as the story unfolds of a sibling rivalries, marriages under pressure and secret dreams. All facets were captured by Jane’s keen eye and brought to the page with a great sense of the ridiculous.

She explains: “Of course what started it off was the funeral of my father, but the situations got funnier and funnier - when they were talking about taking his body out in the serving hatch, it was like a farce.”

The story tells of the family gathering at Otterley Hall in a world familiar to Jane, who was born in 1920. She attended Heron’s Ghyll School for The Daughters of Gentlemen Only, then finishing school in Paris before “coming out” into society.

Her first love was a writer 30 years her senior - they didn’t marry but he encouraged Jane with her early attempts at writing short stories. Her first husband was a captain in the Welsh Fusiliers, though six months later he was sent to Madagascar and they never met again. When she was 21, Jane met her second husband, a Canadian soldier 10 years older than her who she married in 1948, but he abused and controlled her, burning all her writings. Jane eventually broke out of the decade of abuse after falling in love with the writer and businessman George Bowlby - then the husband of her niece - who would become her third husband. She went through the divorce courts, attracting controversy and scandal, but finally felt free to be herself and bring up her family.

The Bowlbys moved to Norfolk after a spell as chicken farmers in Derbyshire, running a business in Devon, and living in Surrey - it was at the latter that Jane returned to her story for Vain Shadow and saw it published, 10 years after she had written it. The writer Elizabeth Jane Howard - who lived at Bungay until her death last year - commented that Jane wrote “with the most enviably skilful ease. She should have a dazzling future”.

But life got in the way of this promise - the Bowlbys set up Norfolk Country Cottages, developing holiday properties from the 1970s to 1990s for this new tourism venture which built up into English Country Cottages.

“George wrote and we should both have kept on with it, but we were building the country cottages business which was a full-time job. We had a huge number of cottages, all over the country. Norfolk was wide open when we came up here, and we got in at the right time, but when he died in 2000 and I was running it on my own, I realised there was a market for six-monthly tenancies, so we now only have 10 properties and have gone down that route.”

Jane’s home - the former dower house of Raynham Hall, near Fakenham - is filled with hundreds of sunflowers, pictures and ornaments of birds and animals, and it is here, in rooms flooded with morning sunshine, that Jane writes still. She is planning a sequel to Vain Shadow - perhaps one in which the character inspired by her mother finds new happiness.

“I love living in Norfolk,” she says. “It’s not too cut off and it’s not in the rat race. Also, you are never far from the sea in Norfolk, which I love. It is so peaceful - and there is not a lot of peace in the world these days.”

Vain Shadow by Jane Hervey, £12, is published by Persephone Books on May 7. She will be talking about the book at a reception with refreshments at Byfords in Holt at 5pm on July 1.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EDP Norfolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EDP Norfolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EDP Norfolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Shop with us at Great British Life

More from Out & About

Mon, 13:19
Thurne Dyke Drainage Mill

Mark Nicholls discovers how the Norfolk Broads are teaching the next generation about wildlife, ecology and the natural landscape

Read more
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Children at the RSPB event at Strumpshaw Fen

Avoid the call of the bored this summer with some of the best Norfolk days out, selected by Judith Palmer

Read more
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Acclaimed violin duo Retorica who will perform a collection of works by Bach, Telemann, Mozart as well as the powerfully expressive Sonata for Two Violins by Sergei Prokofiev

Music, fine art, top comedians, wonderful writers and eclectic drama – don’t miss the Holt Festival

Read more
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Presenter, Dick Strawbridge at the Hunters Yard

The Norfolk Broads, which became the backdrop to some of the best-loved children’s adventure stories, is celebrated in a new TV programme

Read more
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Picnic spots in Norfolk - picture (c) Ralph Paprzycki

Picnic baskets at the ready because there’s nothing better on a warm afternoon than laying down a picnic blanket and enjoying some homemade food in a picture-perfect Norfolk spot

Read more
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
A striking image of Laurence Edward's collection of head sculptures on Cley beach during last year's exhibition. Credit Matthew Cooper

For the next month, the small coastal village of Cley will be home to fascinating art exhibited in unusual places

Read more
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
The Cozens-Hardy Big Cycle Ride takes place at Blickling Estate.

A summary of the events happening all over the county this month

Read more
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Calling our Norfolk natives home. James Matthews tells us about swapping life in London for scenes like this at Brancaster Staithe. Picture: Matthew Usher.

James Matthews celebrates another Norfolk native returning to the county after life in London

Read more
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
View from Ketts Heights where the company hope to light the beacon

The story of one of Norfolk’s great historical moments is retold this summer in a very dramatic way

Read more
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The hounds parade in the Grand Ring at the Royal Norfolk Show

Show and programmes director Mark Nicholas of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association shares what’s new at the Royal Norfolk Show this month

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Norfolk's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search