Posthumous publication of wartime memoirs

Claire and Marianne Sells
Claire and Marianne Sells

For years Marianne Sells worked at her memoirs of her wartime childhood on a farm in West Sussex. Now, a year after her death, Marianne daughter’s Claire has brought those memoirs together for publication.

“Admittedly, I never had much interest in her writing,” Claire says. “But when she passed away in July 2017, after five and a half long years with vascular dementia, I collated all her paperwork – scattered everywhere throughout the family home as her mind worsened – and took it upon myself to self-publish her book. It took many long and painful months to finally get it into a tangible format.”

But the struggles are more than justified by the result.

“She was always good at entertaining and telling wild stories. Whilst reading this, I realised what a beautiful, funny and equally heart-breaking story it is.”

And A Nightingale Sang by Marianne Claire Sells (author) and Claire Marie Sells (compiler) is now available on Amazon. Claire, who worked for the Chichester Observer in 2004-2005 but is now back on the Isle of Wight, said: “The book is about her childhood in Sussex at a house called Snapelands in Lodsworth during World War Two. Mum was the grand-daughter of Sir Richard Gregory, editor of Nature, an established astronomer and scientist, as well as a friend of HG Wells. She was going to be a debutante until the war came. She was originally living on Hayling Island but because of the impending war, they moved to Sussex. They rented the house from a farmer, and at the end of the war the farmer wanted it back. They left in 1945.

“My mother was always into creative writing. She had been writing this book on and off for about 20 years. She always wanted to get it published, but it never happened. It was a work in progress for a long time.

“Basically, she wanted to tell her story. This book was a dream of hers, but the more ill she became, the more forgetful she was getting. I found the pages scattered all over the place. I brought them together. Unfortunately, her dementia stopped her finishing the book.”

But it is a fascinating story: “The farm was very bare and very cold. It didn’t have electric, and the water they got from a nearby well. It was all very primitive, and she talks about the cold in her book. But it sounds like a beautiful place. She was from a family of ten. She had seven sisters and two brothers all there. Some of the sisters became land girls and looked after the land. She died last year. She was 85. I hope she would be proud of the book.”