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September 24, 2014

Joanna Scott’s new novel offers nod to family lore

Joanna Scott
Joanna Scott

As a child, author Joanna Scott played with figurines collected by her great-grandfather, Armand de Potter. He was believed to have disappeared off the coast of Greece in 1905, leaving behind a family on the brink of financial ruin. But after unearthing a trunk filled with diaries and documents from de Potter and his wife, Scott realized her great-grandfather wasn’t the man that he seemed. This disquieting discovery became the basis for her new novel, De Potter’s Grand Tour.

Told from the perspectives of both Armand and his wife, Aimée, as she struggles with his presumed death, the novel explores what might have happened to the self-proclaimed scholar and antiques collector after he disappears.

“After looking through photographs, diaries, and documents from the mid-19th to early 20th century, I began to understand that the story I was told was likely a cover for what appears to have been an intentional act,” says Scott, the Roswell Smith Burrows Professor of English professor. “The fact that he was lost at sea always haunted me a bit and I wanted to explore that concept in this book.”

According to Scott, the project started out as a family biography, but too many pieces were missing for her to complete the project. That’s when she  decided to write a novel about actual events but with a conclusion based on the information she found. “I tried to be as honest to the historical material
as I could while still trying to honor the mystery of the story.”

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