Sarah Walton’s inspiration for The Silk Pavilion came from many sources: staying in an eerie villa during a thunderstorm in Mallorca; thoughts about the novel Rebecca under a modern lens; the concept of creating intrigue about serial killers and the history of the Spanish Civil War – these are but a few.
Sarah was staying at a house in Deià, not far from Robert Graves’ old home. Up late, she heard the horrible, sinister clanging of pipes from terrible plumbing. There was a storm that almost sounded like screaming. Sarah was terrified and her imagination began to spiral, thinking about serial killers. There was a knock at the door, but it was just a neighbour.
Sarah swam in the Cala at Deià, She knew it was a place where men were thrown off or forced to jump from the mirador during the war. The women would pick up what was left of them in the morning and bury what remained. She realised that she was swimming above a graveyard.
Beyond that, Sarah was very familiar with Spain. She was taken to Franco’s memorial outside of Madrid when she just fourteen. She’s studied Catalan and Castilian Spanish and went to Barcelona university. Ultimately, Sarah was steeped in Spanish culture, so aware of the rift between those speakers, and this too inspired the book.
Back in the villa, Sarah began to think about her relationships and her own trauma. She began to wonder what drove her to make the decisions she did. With Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in her mind, she began to think of trapped women, and examined her story with a modern lens. The Silk Pavilion was born.
The Silk Pavilion explores the buried trauma of a woman and Spain’s Civil War simultaneously. Here, Sarah speaks about their powerful thematic interplay.
Sarah aligns personal trauma and national trauma through language, particularly the language of torture and war. Sarah also used specific historical references. For example, during the Spanish Civil War, sugar was a luxury commodity that soldiers used to pay women into having sex with them. Lucy notes that Miguel fixates on sugar and adds it to everything. In The Silk Pavilion, sugar is a weapon of degradation that Miguel uses against a vulnerable Lucy just as soldiers used it against vulnerable women.
Beyond the book, personal and national trauma are intertwined for Sarah because she’s determined to break the silence on both. The atrocities of the Spanish Civil War are repressed by The Pact of Forgetting, which ensured any war crimes or human rights violations weren’t investigated once the war ended. The dedication of The Silk Pavilion reads ‘For abused children and the adults we become’, because this book reveals Sarah herself as a victim of abuse.
Ultimately, Sarah believes silence perpetuates abuse, so in speaking up she’s healing herself, and hopefully contributing to healing trauma from the Spanish Civil War.
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