British teen's 1914 diary from Paris brought to life on Twitter

Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:32am EST
 
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By Miranda Alexander-Webber

PARIS (Reuters) - She's a 16-year-old British girl like any other - hates Mondays, likes cakes, tea and shopping, finds French lessons dull but Paris beautiful.

But the story of Olive Higgins, told through the diary she wrote as she set off to school in Paris in January 1914, is no ordinary one.

Blog readers and over 1,400 Twitter followers have been reading her diary online since New Year's Day, released in daily extracts by London-based British journalist and writer Rob McGibbon, who was given Olive's diary in 2001 by an antiques dealer.

After just six weeks of entries, however, Olive's voice suddenly falls silent on Wednesday. The teenager became too unwell to write, and eventually died on February 25, 1914.

The realization that Olive was buried in a cemetery just a few hundred yards from where McGibbon was born, the same cemetery he used to look out over from his grandfather's house, triggered his interest. From that moment, he was hooked.

"It really was a stunning moment of surreal connection that absolutely convinced me that this was a providential gift, that this was a heaven-sent gift if you like," said McGibbon. "It was such a coincidence, such a weird strong connection."

Consumed by Olive's tale, McGibbon spent time and savings trying to produce a work on the diary, researching in Paris for months at a time.

"From the moment I got the diary it became a complete obsession. Within a few weeks I'd found the grave, I'd found her homes, I abandoned all my work to just focus on that."   Continued...

 
British journalist and writer Rob McGibbon poses with the diary of Olive Higgins from 1914 in his office in west London February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett