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Artwork in the Novel

Compulsively readable, This Is How It Begins is a novel about free speech, the limits of tolerance, and the bitter consequences of long-buried secrets. 

Artwork and Places in the Novel

Much of the artwork mentioned in the novel is real (although "Alexander Roslan's most famous painting—Prelude, 1939—" is a work of fiction). Enjoy these images!


 

Joan Dempsey’s debut novel explores the limits of empathy and the unpredictability of violence. Thoughtful people who reach opposing conclusions are at the all-too-human center of This Is How It Begins, a prescient road map for our times.”

—Mary Rechner, author of Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women

Available October 2017


I found this photograph by Joe Julius Heydecker in the archives at The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland, after I had written about the fictional painting Prelude, 1939, which depicts a street busker playing violin. Like the fictional painting, this photograph is of a boy in the Warsaw Ghetto. Moments like this while writing the novel kept me going; I was apparently telling a story that wanted to be told.

I found this photograph by Joe Julius Heydecker in the archives at The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland, after I had written about the fictional painting Prelude, 1939, which depicts a street busker playing violin. Like the fictional painting, this photograph is of a boy in the Warsaw Ghetto. Moments like this while writing the novel kept me going; I was apparently telling a story that wanted to be told.

Not unlike discovering the photograph of the boy playing violin on the street, I discovered this portrait in what felt like a miraculous way. From the moment I began to write this novel, more than seven years ago, I had an image of Ludka, the protagonist, crawling through smoke and fire with a painting under her arm. I had no idea what the painting might be, but after writing for a time, it became clear it was a portrait of Frederic Chopin. When I researched Chopin, I discovered that this real, famous portrait by Polish artist Ambroży Mieroszewski had been stolen by the Nazis from an apartment in Warsaw and never recovered. Turns out my fictional Ludka has been hiding it from the authorities all along!

Not unlike discovering the photograph of the boy playing violin on the street, I discovered this portrait in what felt like a miraculous way. From the moment I began to write this novel, more than seven years ago, I had an image of Ludka, the protagonist, crawling through smoke and fire with a painting under her arm. I had no idea what the painting might be, but after writing for a time, it became clear it was a portrait of Frederic Chopin. When I researched Chopin, I discovered that this real, famous portrait by Polish artist Ambroży Mieroszewski had been stolen by the Nazis from an apartment in Warsaw and never recovered. Turns out my fictional Ludka has been hiding it from the authorities all along!

The legend of the painting of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, which graces many churches and Polish homes, says that back in the 12th century, in the painting's first home in Jerusalem, its holy presence was said to have saved the church from fire. This painting, too, figures prominently in the novel.

The legend of the painting of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, which graces many churches and Polish homes, says that back in the 12th century, in the painting's first home in Jerusalem, its holy presence was said to have saved the church from fire. This painting, too, figures prominently in the novel.


Rynek Starego Miasto, in the heart of Starówka (Old Town), Warsaw. This is the north side of the square, known as "Strona Dekerta." You'll find out why it's important in chapter 24.

Rynek Starego Miasto, in the heart of Starówka (Old Town), Warsaw. This is the north side of the square, known as "Strona Dekerta." You'll find out why it's important in chapter 24.


Interested in Reading THIS IS HOW IT BEGINS?

Simply fill out the form below and I'll let you know when the novel is hot off the press and ready for your reading pleasure. Thanks for your interest!