After spending two marvellous and transformative months writing on Thai islands, I’ve been preparing my novella for publication. I’ve decided to go for self-publication because traditional publishing houses are unlikely to be interested in a ‘women’s novella by a first time author’. And even if they were, it would take a long time before you could actually read it. Instead, self-publishing is a fast and easy way to get a book on Amazon in e- and print copy. My aim is not to reach a mass audience but to share with you the journey of growth and insight that this book has been for me. And, guys, trust me, there’s plenty of things for you to like in a women’s book too.
So, I’m proud to present an excerpt from ‘Love turns’, my novella about:
‘A granddaughter, liberated and searching in modern-day London; her grandmothers, constrained by a lack of choice in mid-twentieth century Holland. Three women, three stories. Three journeys in love, dreams, independence, roots.’
The launch date for my book will be in May. I’ll keep you posted and in the mean time, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this preview!
Carnival night (1956)
Snow fell in the deep night, covering the little pond at the end of the street, the ducks hiding from the cold. Every now and again they huddled together as people shuffled by. The revellers were so drunk that they didn’t feel the cold through their colourful costumes. The ducks made soft squeaky sounds, fearing another may be taken away.
Earlier, one of the revellers on his way to the prince’s ball thought a duck was a useful addition to his outfit, firmly positioning it between the grapes in the fruit basket on his head. On these three days prior to Ash Wednesday, life south of the rivers Rhine, Maas, and Waal was turned upside down while the elected princes of carnival societies ruled the towns and cities. Marching bands roamed from café to café, their drums accompanying chants of love.
The ducks, however, had nothing to fear from the revellers returning from the ball. Inebriated with wine, intoxicated with food and dance, they were saturated with pleasure. For every post-war year, the display of abundance surpassed that of previous years. This year it reached its peak, golden as the shimmer from Sophia’s dress, as she ordered Henri’s Pontiac Firebird to a halt.
‘Henri, mein Liebster, you will understand that I will serenade these poor ducklings. Nothing less will do for them on a night like tonight.’ She was certain that this was the right thing to do and left small marks in the snow as she carefully placed one high-heeled foot after another. Still a little too heavy-set, she gingerly stopped at the side of the pond, giggling to herself that she may fall, the state that she was in. She cooed the ducks to come closer. They shyly approached, nonplussed by this woman in fur who sang the drinking song of Verdi’s La Traviata to them in the moonlight.
While she sang, Henri watched her appreciatively. He was smoking a cigarette and leant back against the side of the car in his white smoking jacket, hair parted immaculately. Although he had forbidden her to sing in public when they married after the war, he adored her voice and was flattered when people call her the nightingale of the South. Ten years after their marriage she was still known for the distinct timbre to her voice.
Sophia, especially when tipsy, also shared with Maria Callas her diva attitude to life. Her walk was as gracious as Maria’s and her presence as striking. Yet, unlike Maria, she had never been able to lose those 100 pounds. Perhaps this was partly Henri’s fault for keeping her in the house. After there were some stories of a local housewife losing her mind, a woman much less like a bird of paradise than Sophia, he’d asked her whether she was happy. ‘I’m happy when you make love to me, darling. What else do you expect?’ she had said with raised eyebrows and a mischievous smile. She had refused to take him seriously and started to seduce him instead.
Angry with himself, and emotional when drunk, he muttered, ‘What else could I have done? What would people have said when she had been performing on stage, night after night, dressed in these costumes and in the arms of another man? It would have meant bankruptcy to my business, and no one to look after the children.’ Even now, the thought made him mad with jealousy.
‘Schätzchen, get in the car now, will you?’ he strained his voice to break through the waves of hers, echoing down the snowed-in street.
She shrugged, determined not to have her mood spoiled. She ignored the string of memories she had of earlier occasions when he had stolen moments of glory, albeit from audiences more appreciative than these ducklings. Besides, her neighbours, woken up by her song, must be expecting another of their loud rows. But things turned quiet as Henri and Sophia drove up the hill to their house.
Stumbling through the front door, she was swearing at every object she bumped into. She reached the living room and realised the room was awfully cold. She inspected the lifeless fireplace, thinking that she was damn well not waiting for Henri to fix things, ‘that good for nothing man, a good salesman that’s all he is.’
She found the maid’s white spirit and amply covered the wood in the fireplace. As she lit the fire the heat and the bang were so strong she was thrown back onto the sofa, grinning contently at the wild open fire that she has caused.
Henri, still lingering outside, slammed the door of the car shut and lit a cigarette as he closed the door of the garage. The snowfall was slowing down, and he could vaguely smell the pines. He walked towards the house, remembering to avoid the pool, and taking in the quiet night. The revellers were now sleeping. He looked up at the stars. A moment later something shot through the sky, waking the neighbourhood dogs, then landing in his neighbour’s garden. In slow motion he traced the sound back to his house, noticing a hole in the roof and fire breaking through. He started running towards the fire, praying to god almighty that his wife and children were not hurt.