What if we could turn aside, walk through the unnoticed door into a hidden garden, and find there the past, ready to be lived again? … If the hurtling train of life could pause at the station, the hands of the clock stop.
Decking a gypsy girl in poppies, pouring symbolic water – this was the Paparuda, a traditional ceremony practised in the Balkan countries to bring rain in times of drought.
Two families – one English, one Hungarian – have lived their lives unaware of any links between them. A chance encounter between Kate Milburn and Sofia Niklai on a Northumbrian beach begins the process of discovery and rediscovery which reveals a web of past relationships. While Kate’s husband has become the prisoner of his demanding job, Kate and Sofia are also prisoners of a kind: the one locked in an unhappy marriage, the other a lonely exile with a tragic past. Both women are haunted by guilt. Sofia forces herself to confront the diaries kept by her father, while Kate must face half-remembered shadows from her childhood.
An impulsive journey to Hungary by the two women uncovers connections, hitherto unsuspected, with Dr István Rudnay and his sister Magdolna, a sculptor in ceramics. Also marked by the dark experiences of his youth, István Rudnay has learned to live in the present. His meeting with Kate and Sofia leads him to a reconciliation with his past, while they discover the warmth and love so lacking in their own lives. Sharing in their different ways their burdens of guilt, Sofia, Kate and István find the aridity of their damaged lives transformed – as the Paparuda once brought fertility to the withered land.
Sharply observed and recounted with tenderness and wisdom, The Travellers delineates the intense joys and sorrows of individual lives upon a broad canvas of recent European history.