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Clare ODea Voting Day

We recently wrote an article about Bergli Book's new publication 50 Amazing Swiss Women. And since then we heard about another book on the subject of women's right to vote in Switzerland written by Clare O'Dea: Voting Day. She has offered to give one lucky knowitall.ch reader a copy, read below. We asked her a few questions to find out her story:

Why did you start? What has been the inspiration?
The inspiration for this book is all around. It’s in the life stories of the older generation, stories I’ve heard from many people in my years in Switzerland. For a long time, this wasn’t the easiest country for women to live in. They were the forgotten half of society, disenfranchised, legally disadvantaged and hardly visible in public life.

I wanted to put myself in the shoes of those unseen and uncelebrated women.

My novel Voting Day (Le jour où les hommes ont dit non) takes place on 1 February 1959, when men voted no to granting women voting rights – by a two-thirds majority. By recreating that day from the point of view of four women characters, I wanted in some small way to reclaim a bitter moment in recent Swiss history for women.

Have you been working on this idea forever, or was it something that came to you recently?
Funnily enough, I completed almost all the research for this book before I had the idea to write it. As a journalist working for swissinfo.ch, I interviewed victims of historical injustices in the care system and reported on their campaign for compensation. I covered issues like forced adoption and the ill-treatment of the Yenish people. For my non-fiction book, The Naked Swiss, I interviewed one of the leading campaigners for the vote in the 1950s and read a lot about that era. I also learned a lot about Swiss culture from my in-laws’ large extended family.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
Writing the book was a real pleasure. The challenge was to get it published, and the clock was ticking because the 50th anniversary of the women’s vote was coming up in February 2021. I also really wanted the book to reach Swiss readers. After a lot of effort and with plenty of help, I managed to raise enough money to have the book translated into French, German and Italian last year and to publish all four books on time for the anniversary.

Where do you see this book going? A series?
I really feel like my characters lives continue after Voting Day ends – and things improve for them. Maybe I will return to write more about one or more of them in the future. But for now, I’ll be glad if readers get to know them and empathise with them.

What is your favorite chapter/quote and why?
The book is in four parts, each written from the point of view of a different character. We get to see how they view and interact with each other, the misunderstandings, moments of selfishness and solidarity. I hope they are all sympathetic in their own way. If I had to choose a favourite, I would choose Vreni, the farmer’s wife with grown-up children and abandoned dreams. She does something very impressive in the story, outside of her comfort zone, and you can’t help admiring her for that.

What comments have you received from readers?
I’ve had some lovely comments about the book through social media and email. Swiss readers feel that the characters and the setting are authentic and that’s the biggest compliment of all. There is a child character who connects the four women and a lot of people find his story moving.

Voting Day cover

About the author
Originally from Ireland, Clare O’Dea has lived in Switzerland since 2003. The former Irish Times and Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (swissinfo.ch) journalist wrote her first non-fiction book, The Naked Swiss: A Nation Behind 10 Myths (Bergli Books), in 2016. Her second book, The Naked Irish: Portrait of a Nation Beyond the Clichés was published by Mentor Books in 2019. Voting Day is her first novel. Clare lives with her husband and three daughters in Fribourg.

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Clare has kindly offered to gift a copy of her book, Voting Day, to one lucky knowitall.ch reader, a Fr. 19.90 value. Just fill in this form and let us know: Is Voting Day Clare's first novel?

Only one entry per email is allowed. The competition closes at midnight on Thursday, 11 March 2021. The names of all those submitting correct answers will be placed into the digital hat and the winner's name drawn at random on Friday, 12 March 2021. The winner will be notified by email and his/her name will be added to this article after the competition closes. Only valid for delivery to a Swiss address.

Voting Day
By Clare O'Dea

Voting Day can be ordered through most Swiss bookshops
Books Books Books in Lausanne (click link for video interview with Matthew)
Bergli Books has it in stock in all four languages

Soft cover
Fr. 19.90
ISBN: 9782970144502

PS: 04.03.2021 The Swiss Post Office has released a new stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of women being given the right to vote in Switzerland.

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