Catherine Law - historical romantic novelist

Discover spell-binding romantic fiction with a dark heart

The Real Ginge

Ginge and Jan wedding
Our Auntie Ginge is something of a legend in my family: we love to hear how, during the war, she met and married her Czech soldier Jan Chlebek and how, after his enforced return to his homeland once peace was declared, she left on one of the first trains across Europe to be reunited with him in Prague.

However, as a captain in the Czech army and a supposed enemy of Socialism, Jan soon became a target for the new Communist government and it begun to be imperative for them to return to England.

Ginge packed a suitcase as if she was going on holiday so as not to arose suspicion; Jan threw himself off a moving train to make it to a refugee camp in Vienna, and finally to England.

Their story is incredible and inspired me to write A Season of Leaves, singling out critical episodes: Ginge’s journey across war-ravaged Europe, the hardships and tensions of post-war Czechoslovakia, Jan’s gun in his coat pocket.

Once they had settled back in England, Jan anglicised his name to John Charlton but sadly died in 1965. Ginge (Gertrude Elizabeth Charlton nee Robinson) passed away in November 2007 at the age of 94, knowing that she and Jan were the inspiration behind my novel.

I am indebted to their sons, Zdenék (Robin) and Eduard Charlton for being graciously accepting of my desire to commandeer parts of their story.

In the novel I married my protagonist Rose to the terribly patient and totally fictitious Will Bowman, but the sentiment and the romance of the story belongs to Ginge, who followed her dream in the face of dreadful danger and uncertainty.

The book is dedicated to her.

How a season o fleaves was born