The Oak Farm
The Hour of Separation is partly set on a Belgian Farm called De Eikenhoeve, which translates as The Oak Farm.
The farm is a rural idyll, a factory, and a place of secrets. The land has no visible boundaries. The house is vast, with a turret and an arch through which the traffic of the farm passes to reach the yard. You can get lost on the farm, and in its buildings, but you are in a melting pot. You can't escape. Everyone knows everyone else's business. When Christa walks home through the lanes she hears sounds of love-making behind a hedge. There is always something going on, just out of sight. And there is no real hiding place. Fugitives of all kinds come to the farm, expecting to be safe. But the farm is just as dangerous as the world beyond.
My Irish grandfather was born on a tiny farm in Ireland. My father worked there sometimes in his holidays but never spoke of it. My mother, on the other hand, spent her war-time holidays on a Hertfordshire Farm. They were glorious summers for her. She had a yearning, all her life, for the meadows she had known then. For my father, those Irish trips were times of banishment, for my mother her wartime summers were times of escape and, I guess, a sense that she was making a real contribution.
Christa arrives at De Eikenhoeve in the same spirit. She longs for adventure. She longs to help. Instead she finds secrets and lies and love and lust and danger. And strawberries and cream, and walks in the sunset, and a bathing pool deep in the woods....