Kindred Spirits Paperback – 8 Dec 2008
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
And then, finally, it was time.
Time to leave the set on which the past decade of my life had been played out.
To my surprise I found the mounting trepidation of the last few weeks had made its departure ahead of mine. The house, stripped bare of everything that made it ours, had already lost what I had most dreaded leaving. Like an empty theatre after the play has ended, the bare walls contained only silent echoes and empty memories.
It was time to move on.
My older children had cleared out their attic bedrooms weeks before, but as I checked them for the last time the empty rooms flashed images of their teenage lives at me: I closed one door on the abiding memory of Mark playing `Tears from Heaven' on his guitar; the other on Jess watching back-to-back episodes of Friends with her two real life best friends. On the first floor, Lily's ceiling retained the luminous stars which had watched over the days and lit all the nights of her seven years; whilst the indentations of Felix's cot legs remained indelibly in the lino floor of his room.
The pervasive intimacy of the bedroom I had shared with Jack seemed to have been removed with the furniture and the room felt as impersonal as the day we'd moved in. I hoped the particles that had absorbed nine years of marriage had crammed themselves into the van with the rest of our household goods and were at this moment bumping their way eastward amongst the packing cases. Perhaps they would unfurl the other end with the sheets and quilts, clothes and cushions, paintings and photos, and envelop us in the aura of contented family life I envisaged at our new home.
After a final mug of coffee, I swabbed the last stains from the kitchen surfaces, mopped the tiles and hauled the final bin bag out to the pile by the pavement. I unwound the door keys from my key ring and left them in the hall with a welcome note and the local take away menus. Jack had left earlier, to stop in at his surgery round the corner for the final time and load the boxed-up contents of his office into his new Landrover, already stacked with all our computer gear and his precious sound system.
Mel, my next door neighbour, saw me closing the car boot on the last bag of over night necessities the removal men had left us and came out to say goodbye. We exchanged fierce hugs, me smiling through tears and saying that they must all come and stay very soon; Mel saying yes, of course they would, though we both knew they wouldn't. I got into the car and drove away without looking back until I had almost rounded the bend. Mel was still on the pavement her arm raised in a final farewell.
But I was OK.
I was on the way and feeling good.
If I'd known then what lay ahead of us, I might have had second thoughts about moving out of my city comfort zone to a new life in the country.
Not that I had been a willing convert to Jack's plan to leave London. Having spent my childhood in Pimlico and lived most of my adult years around the eccentricities of Crystal Palace, I could hardly conceive of a life outside the capital. But Jack's suburban roots had long sought deeper soil and Felix's asthma, serious and intractable since his birth two years ago, provided him with the ultimate justification.
We had argued the case at length, with me pitting my friends, work and access to the city's arts and heritage I rarely took advantage of these days but thought our children should have; against Jack's implacable belief that our quality of life, health, stress levels, and the children's education would all be vastly improved in a rural setting.
Unspoken between us remained what I suspected was his hidden agenda: the desire to be closer to his birth mother, with whom we had made contact before Felix was born.
Our increasingly regular trips to stay with Kathleen and her politician husband, Maxwell, in their Norfolk constituency home had exposed a new side of Jack: a man who worked out by walking dogs rather than running laps; relaxed by digging vegetables instead of watching football; and chopped wood and built fires of an evening in preference to writing research papers. I enjoyed this relaxed, weekend version of my husband, delighted in the children's occasional countryside freedom and kept my less positive feelings to myself. How could I resent Jack's boyish happiness in the company of his newly found parent?
Yet insecurity sometimes gnawed at me when I watched him with Kathleen who, still beautiful, looked younger than her sixty years and sometimes a near mirror image of her adult son. She showed little of the mother and still less of the grandmother she had recently discovered herself to be in her attitude towards him. Six years his senior, I was the older woman in Jack's life, but had the long term demands of motherhood robbed me of the appeal that Kathleen's belated assumption of the role conferred on her?
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18 December 2014
I read this book in one go. Was captured by the dual storyline of what happened in the Norfolk farmhouse to those who lived there during WW II and the astute Mo Mozart and her young family who move in from London. Learned a lot about wartime country living in the UK and as a Dutch person am even more grateful to those who did what they could to liberate us on the continent. Lucy McCarrahers characters are people to love and the book leaves me pondering: what if time is not as linear as we assume it is and we can access the lives of others?
1 February 2009
For those, like me, who loved Blood and Water by Lucy McCarraher, here's more of the same, but even better. Mo, with her family, has now moved to Norfolk after buying a farmhouse. Though she has initial qualms about leaving London, everything in the garden should be lovely, but the house seems to be haunted and she's having to share her husband with his newly found, newly adoring, birth mother. All this is echoed in a local production of Hamlet that Mo is involved in. There's also a split narrative as a land girl's diary from the Second World War is recounted. However, past and present are brilliantly weaved by Lucy's flowing writing that will soon have you racing to get to the cracking climax.