Conscience and Conflict


March 6, 2015 by Lydia Syson


A ground-breaking exhibition exploring British artists’ many and varied responses to the Spanish Civil War transfers tomorrow from Pallant House Gallery in Chichester to the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.  On The History Girls today I’ve blogged about the show and the accompanying book by Simon Martin, which is also excellent.  Henry Moore’s lithograph Spanish Prisoner (above – see below for details) was made to raise money for the thousands of Spanish refugees held in detention camps in France – almost as many as had already been killed in combat, and as many again as were executed by Franco’s regime after the war.  The outbreak of World War Two intervened: Camberwell School of Art shut with Moore’s work trapped inside and there were no funds to pay the printer. Moore later returned to the theme in three-dimensional form. keep reading

Bees not fleas


February 24, 2015 by Lydia Syson


Fellow YA author Helen Grant and I struck up conversation on Twitter at the weekend after reading a couple of responses from disgruntled male writers to the YouGov poll which found – surprise, surprise – that most people would rather be writers than go down the pit. To counter the prevailing myth that writing books is always a miserable, lonely profession, we collaborated on this book blog for The Guardian. keep reading

Proof Fever


January 27, 2015 by Lydia Syson

Liberty's Fire Cover

‘At first the children thought ‘the proof’ meant the letter the sensible Editor had written, but they presently got to know that the proof was long slips of paper with the story printed on them.  Whenever an Editor was sensible there were buns for tea.’

The Railway Children, E. Nesbit

In our house, buns for tea celebrate a contract.  The arrival of the page proofs means the work begins, and everyone is head down for a while.  Proof fever is raging this week for Liberty’s Fire. keep reading



January 6, 2015 by Lydia Syson


Twelfth night always seems a better time to start the year than January 1st. The decorations are back under the eaves, the tree is on the path waiting to be picked up and turned into sawdust, and no word could offer more promise than epiphany. So today, dear reader, I wish you many epiphanic moments in literature and life in the year ahead. keep reading

Can I get there by Candlelight?


December 7, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Tis Pity 002

If you head over to The History Girls, you’ll find some seasonal thoughts on candlelight through time, how light can affect plot, and the magical experience of watching ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore from the Musicians’ Gallery of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Hiawatha: Photographer


November 24, 2014 by Lydia Syson


As some of you may know from my most recent post on The History Girls, I’ve been doing a lot of research this year into nineteenth-century photography for my new book, Liberty’s Fire.  One day, just as I was despairing that I would ever get my head round the different processes involved in wet, as opposed to dry, collodion, or daguerreotype and tintype, or remember exactly how long each stage might take, or which chemicals would have what effect, let alone weave this seamlessly into a gripping narrative, I came across a wonderful poem by Lewis Carroll which made me laugh out loud. Since I am deep in edits, I thought I’d share it with you now. keep reading

Stiff Upper Lips


October 28, 2014 by Lydia Syson

'Shell Shock' by Nicholas Lens and Nick Cave at La Monnaie Opera House, Brussels

A few days ago, a new opera called Shell Shock premiered in Brussels, just one of the huge number of commemorative events marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Works of art such as Pat Barker’s mesmerising Regeneration trilogy have already made a huge contribution to our understanding of shell shock, though sadly, not enough to ensure we are dealing with it effectively today.  You don’t ever get over it’ was the headline of a disturbing article in last week’s Guardian about the treatment – or non-treatment – of combat stress today, through interviews with British soldiers who have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland. Names change - in the 19th century it was known keep reading

‘Maximum meaning, minimum means’


October 6, 2014 by Lydia Syson


Today’s my first post as one of the History Girls…from now on you’ll find me there on the 6th of every month.  Follow the link to find out more about the man behind this brilliant image. (Not an artist, but ‘a graphic thinker’.)

School visits: bonus time


September 18, 2014 by Lydia Syson


There’s something particularly satisfying about reading creative work that’s been produced by students after a school visit.  Last summer I went to talk to a group of Year 9 girls at Streatham and Clapham High School, who were – most impressively – finding out about the Spanish Civil War in Spanish.  I thought it was such an imaginative approach to learning a language, and it was fantastic to meet students so engaged with the history and culture of Spain.  Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to give my talk in Spanish. Even better, the project led to some wonderful pieces of writing in English, the best of which – by Anna and Lulu – you can read below.  keep reading

Summer news – updated


August 1, 2014 by Lydia Syson


This is a bits-and-pieces, catch-up kind of a post, mostly to express my gratitude to lots of different people who’ve helped me in my work in lots of different ways over the past few months… keep reading


Lydia Syson"an outstanding debut novel for teenagers" THE GUARDIAN

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