IT'S SAGA SATURDAY!! Story inspiration with saga author Juliet Greenwood...


How my family history inspired ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’

Juliet Greenwood

I loved writing ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’, my second book for Orion, especially as the original idea was sparked by my own family history. When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by my aunts’ stories of my great-grandmother, who was a nail maker, supplementing the family income in a workshop in the back yard of their house in Lye, near Birmingham, in the heart of the industrial Black Country. The image I remember most clearly is the description of her beating out the white-hot metal with a hammer, while rocking the cradle of her youngest child with her foot. It was such an arresting picture, especially as metal working was definitely not supposed to be an ambition for a girl!

Later, I had an opportunity to have a brief go at enamelling, which is the particular skill of Jess in ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’. Like Jess, I loved the process of manipulating metal, which changes so much when it is heated, and the way ground glass can be melted to become the brilliant sheen of enamel. I definitely don’t have anything like Jess’ flair, and I didn’t pursue it, although when I was writing the book, I wanted to learn more, planning to take a day’s course with a blacksmith in a local museum and follow evening lessons in enamelling. Of course, like so many things, Covid put paid to that -although I’m still hoping the blacksmith’s course will return in the future so I can have a few hours to experience such a traditional skill, and one that a surprising number of women have, like Jess during the First World War mastered as their own.

‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’ is set mainly in a harbour near St Ives just after the First World War, with many female metal workers, including silversmiths, trying to eke a living among the other artists who flocked there, knowing that they had to prove themselves even more than the men. My great-grandmother bashed out nails in Victorian times, and out of necessity, and with no chance to take her physical strength or her skills in any other direction. So when I started to research the women artists in St Ives, I was intrigued to find so many metal workers, determinedly perfecting their art and, like Jess, with a dream of being able to make an independent living pursuing a passion. I found it particularly fascinating as the village where I live in Snowdonia, in North Wales, has so many female metalworkers, creating exquisite pieces, some in workshops, but others at the kitchen table or in a shed in the back garden, quietly pursuing a passion. I have a feeling my hammer-wielding great-grandmother, with one foot on the cradle, would approve.

The Girl with the Silver Clasp


St. Ives, 1916.

Jess Morgan always hoped to become a celebrated silversmith, but when the men return from war she's forced to return to her job as a seamstress. All she can cling to is the memory of that delicate, unique silver clasp she created for a society bride.

Rachel Bellamy served as an ambulance driver on the front line during the Great War but now it's up to her to save the family home and picturesque harbour from her wealthy brother-in-law, before it's too late. 

Giselle Harding fought her way up from poverty to become a Hollywood movie star. Yet even the most beautiful jewels she owns will never replace the man she lost.

As the lives of the three women collide, will they be able to overcome their differences and fight together for the dreams they once held so close?

Link: The Girl with the Silver Clasp

Juliet Greenwood

Juliet Greenwood is a historical novelist published by Orion. She has always been a bookworm and a storyteller, writing her first novel (a sweeping historical epic) at the age of ten. Juliet is fascinated both by her Celtic heritage and the history of the women in her family. She now lives in a traditional cottage in Snowdonia, North Wales, set between the mountains and the sea, with an overgrown garden (good for insects!) and a surprisingly successful grapevine. She is currently working on her next novel.







1 comment

  1. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Rachel! I loved every minute!