The Story Behind BRISTOL HOUSE by Beverly Swerling
This novel has been lying in wait for me for over two decades.
I first visited Number Eight Bristol House, the flat in the Holborn
section of London that occupies a pivotal role in the story, in 1991.
The flat belongs to my son’s in-laws and on that initial visit I saw
exactly what my heroine, Annie Kendall, sees on the first page of the
novel, high ceilings, fireplaces, a lived-in charm nowadays called
“shabby chic,” even the tiny back bedroom around the bend of a long
corridor. I did not see a ghost.
But I might have.
It rather depends on what is meant by the term.
Bristol House is based on my suspicion that we're all here
all the time, but we aren't usually able to see one another. Though
sometimes, for some reason I don't pretend to understand, we can.
I think that's what Einstein was saying in his famous analogy of time as
a river in which everything is present, but we can't see around the
bends. Also what T. S. Eliot had in mind in those equally famous lines
from Burnt Norton: "Time present and time past are both
perhaps contained in time future. And time future contained in time
I believe this synchronicity of experience, the circularity of time, is
at the root of much of what seems most mysterious in our world.
My background is both Catholic and Jewish, and I have been profoundly
influenced by that shared faith tradition. It is not an accident that
this novel – all my novels – speak of belief and hope, and that
frequently the voices of my characters echo from a place we can only
occasionally glimpse out of the corner of an eye, but never bring into
I make it all up, but I am convinced it's true.