September 8, 2023
The street photographer Robert Doisneau was walking around Paris in the summer of 1948 on an assignment from Paris Match. He was looking for images reflecting the hopeful post-war mood when he saw a young woman sitting by the Seine at the Ile de la Cite typing on a manual typewriter. She turned out to be the 25-year-old English author Emma Smith, who was at the time working on her second novel. The photo has come to romantically symbolize the creative writer at work.
But what about Smith? Her first novel, Maiden’s Trip, had been a critical and commercial success and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. She used her prize money to live in Paris and work on a second novel, which became The Far Cry and was equally successful. But then, in 1951, she married a man with whom she had two children before he died of a heart attack. Finding herself a single mother faced with mortgage payments, she ended up in Wales where writing was put aside. Eventually she wrote several children’s books and, in 1978, another novel. When she was in her 80s, she wrote two critically-acclaimed autobiographies. The Great Western Beach, about her childhood in Cornwall between the World Wars, followed by As Green as the Grass, which followed her life up to her marriage. So, hers was, in fact, a rather romantic writer’s life.
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