Puzzle of past yields pain and book ingredients

NEWCASTLE author and playwright Nell Jones spent six years on the trail of her mother’s past, fashioning her latest book from a slowly emerging painful reality.

Ms Jones has great ambitions for The Lost Sister of Groningen.

The book, which features a series of original artworks, will be launched on April 16 at the Tap Gallery in Sydney.

Searching for the truth in her family’s past, the 46-year-old author had no idea what she would uncover would be so ‘‘painful’’ and ‘‘shocking’’.

‘‘My mother had told me stories throughout the years, and when I approached her with the idea for the book she was hesitant,’’ Ms Jones said.

‘‘She finally agreed, but I knew I had to make her promise that regardless of what we found, there would be no filtering of the truth.’’

What Ms Jones uncovered in three trips to Holland and two to Germany was all the right ingredients for a best seller.

Sex, lies, betrayal and triumph over hardship.

‘‘The reality is that my mother does not have a father, the man we thought was my grandfather was not even in the country when she was conceived, and my grandmother was a prostitute who was sleeping with German soldiers,’’ Ms Jones said.

‘‘It was a shocking discovery and my mother is still dealing with it all. It’s been very difficult on her.’’

The book tells the story of poverty-stricken Anneke, abandoned in an orphanage by her parents before she eventually flees from occupied Holland with her eldest sister and lands alone in the slums of Australia at the age of 13.

She survives through much hardship to a life of significance in Sydney.

Ms Jones said the book was her biggest writing achievement to date had brought her and her mother closer.

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