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Living with StrangersLiving with Strangers

Elizabeth Ellis

  • Family Drama

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Why I wrote this book

The idea for Living with Strangers grew and changed over many years, until the time and space to write it finally opened up. Coming from a large family, working in education and bringing up three children, human interaction has always been central to my life. I wanted to capture some element of what happens to a family following a traumatic event, when secure, familiar structures break down and heartbreaking decisions have to be made. I wanted to write about a family still haunted by the shadow of war and the effect this has on those decisions. 

Although set in an era before 24/7 communication was the norm, before the internet and mobile phones, at a time when working and travelling abroad were far less common that they are today, the book nevertheless deals with contemporary issues of intolerance, inter-generational conflict and the overarching need for forgiveness.
Living with Strangers is the poignant tale of a family’s struggle to reconnect.


Living with Strangers is a family drama set in England, France and Germany between 1963 and 1978. It deals with loss and restitution in a family still haunted by the shadow of the Second World War and the effect this has on the decisions they are forced to make. 

The story is told through the eyes of Madeleine Feldman, a young woman coming to terms with the loss of her brother who left home suddenly and mysteriously when she was 13. It is her rite of passage from early adolescence to adulthood. Madeleine is a strong, sympathetic protagonist, subjected to rejection and indifference at home and at school, whose life becomes a series of poor decisions and errors of judgement. An unexpected delivery one day results in a quest to locate her brother before their father dies... 

The book deals with issues of inter-generational conflict, job security and single parenthood at a time when communication within a family was often poor, sexuality was a taboo subject and prejudice and intolerance were rife – all issues that still resonate today. 

Part mystery, part memoir in style, Living With Strangers is a quiet, moving tale of a family’s struggle to reconnect. Elizabeth takes inspiration from a number of writers, including Penelope Lively, Anita Brookner, Emma Donoghue and Michele Roberts. This, her debut novel, will appeal mainly to women and to fans of fiction set in the recent past.

About the Author

Elizabeth Ellis
Elizabeth Ellis grew up in Hertfordshire, has lived in various corners of England and spent several years in France. She studied English at college while training as a teacher and has worked in many fields of education including French and English language teaching and special needs. She holds a diploma in French from the Chartered Institute of Linguists 

Elizabeth now devotes her time to writing. In recent years, she has developed her craft through workshops, on-line study and a three-month course at the Faber Academy. 

A keen swimmer, and passionate about all things to do with language and communication, Elizabeth is also the co-founder and trustee of a small charity, which raises money for health care services in rural Bangladesh. She is married with three daughters and lives in North Herts. Living with Strangers is her first novel.

Book info

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256 pages


Elizabeth Ellis


Matador an imprint of Troubador Publishing

Publication date

28th June 2014

Author's Website