PREVIEW – The three of us, that’s how it had always been. Miriam is – was – my grandmother, Hannah her daughter and my mother, and then there was me, Chloe. Mother – daughter – child. Three slivers of brittle glass, edging and grinding away at each other. And then there was him, although up until that moment I didn’t know he existed. He must have known some of it. And Miriam? Of course, Miriam knew everything. What about Hannah? I’m still not sure how much she was aware of.
I, of course, knew nothing. They all made sure of that.
My hand was hurting. I found it grasping the pendant, holding on to it so tightly that red and purple marks were scored across my palm like stigmata. My eyes were hot and sore and I could feel tears pricking the corners, but I was determined not to cry. Grief is a private matter, Hannah would say. My mother never approved of public displays of emotion, would never be seen to lose control. Miriam pitied her for that and many other things. A strange thing to feel for one’s own daughter – not love nor pride, but pity.
There was flurry near the door, a swirling of brown and black, a long dark coat, ebony hair slicked back and caught into a smooth tail, the scraping of a metal chair against a tiled floor.
‘You won’t mind if I join you.’ It was a statement, not a request for permission. I didn’t need this and whoever he was I wished he would go away. Instead he sat down opposite me, the hem of his coat sweeping the floor, and leaned his head down sideways to peer up into my face.
‘It is, indeed, a beautiful morning. You are Cliohna, aren’t you, though of course you prefer to be called Chloe?’
I swallowed back the tears. My voice came out in a broken whisper. ‘Yes. Do I know you?’
‘Miriam, I know . . . I knew your grandmother, Miriam.’ I looked up into eyes that were more gold than brown, a sweep of black lashes and black brows arched like wings on a pale forehead. He could have been my age, early twenties, but it was difficult to tell; his age seemed to change from moment to moment. He lowered his eyelids, his mouth pulled taught. Like me he seemed to be bearing the sorrow of a loss and struggling to maintain a public face.
‘I don’t know you, do I? I don’t think we have ever met.’ I knew we hadn’t. He was not someone to be overlooked. ‘You say you knew Miriam?’
He looked directly into my eyes and nodded.
‘Yes, I have known her a long time. A long time.’ Then his gaze drifted to the window and he was silent for so long I thought he had forgotten about me.
Suddenly, without looking back but with a voice so clear that I was startled, he said, ‘You could say that through her I have known you, also.’
‘Oh,’ I scratched around for something to say, ‘perhaps she spoke about you. I’m afraid I don’t remember. I’m sorry, this is embarrassing. You seem to know who I am but I don’t know anything about you.’ To be honest, I didn’t care who he was, I just hoped he would go away and leave me alone to nurture my misery. I thought that if I maintained a cool politeness it would somehow sustain the distance between us. As a strategy it failed
‘My name is . . .It is difficult to pronounce. It would be easier if you called me Iolair. That is what she called me.’
‘Iolair? That’s easier, is it? What sort of name is that?’
‘It’s Celtic, like your own Cliohna, from the Gaelic. I know you prefer Chloe, but didn’t Miriam sometimes call you Little Wren?’
This was too much, too intimate, this closeness from a total stranger. Who was he to know my name? What else did he know about me? I felt exposed, undefended, a small animal trapped by the intensity of those golden brown eyes. As if he sensed my unease he straightened, pushing backwards in his chair to break the spell.
‘I’ll have some coffee. Dark and sweet and very strong. That’s what is needed at moments such as this,’ and he smiled at me and before I could help it I had smiled back. He raised a long, slender hand in the slightest of gestures and a waiter, busy at a far table, his back towards us, turned from his task and walked over to our corner. At the time my thoughts were too jumbled to register the significance of this. Nor was I concerned when, having brought a second cup to place next to mine, the waiter failed to place with it the slip of paper for the till. My mind was too full of momentous events to be concerned with the activities of restaurant staff. It is only now, knowing what I know, that all the tiny shards of abnormality begin to fall into place.
REVIEWS – I’m glad I found this author, have now read this and several other of her books.
PREVIEW – He is nearly forty now, and the dreams have followed him through his adult life. And although he has searched his own past and his family history, he can find no explanation for them. Sometimes the dreams increased in frequency, especially when he was up at Cambridge and got drawn into the student life; debating societies and rowing clubs, sitting up until all hours putting the world to rights over a bottle of cheap wine. That’s when he first joined the Parapsychology Forum, a group of intellectuals whose aim was to investigate supernatural phenomena from an objective, scientific standpoint. That was the theory, anyway. It was from there that his knowledge expanded to embrace all manner of paranormal events, and, whatever it was they were investigating, Cassandra always had something to say on the matter.
She has become a part of his life, to the point where, if there is a long time lapse between dreams, he misses her. There has never been anything dramatic or traumatic; no nightmares or erotic fantasies. They begin with the folding of paper, different shapes, often remarkably intricate and beautiful in themselves: a true art form. The shapes are usually related to whatever his mind is working on, although sometimes she makes something purely for fun or because she thinks he will enjoy it. Then she comes into focus. A walk in a cool garden, a moment by a still lake. Nowhere he ever recognizes, although he is now widely travelled. They talk, that is all. Often he cannot even remember what they talk about, although the rational side of him knows it is all generated from inside his head, and therefore he has it stored safely within his subconscious mind. But his more intuitive self feels she is not part of him. A memory? Another lifetime? Some ancestral imprint on his genetic helix? His explanations to himself pass through fashions and phases. He has learned enough to know that there may be other beings, ghosts if you like, spirit guides, angels, who communicate with the living. But somehow that doesn’t ring true here, either. Whoever or whatever she is, she comes to him in dreams of origami. More so recently.
REVIEWS – Such an unusual story line. The book is full of colour, will definitely keep and read again, one for my bookshelves.
Pleasantly surprised by this one
PREVIEW – The saucer licked clean, the cat returns to its place on the rug and begins its after-dinner wash. This is a creature who maintains standards even in hard times. The dull, grey fur and crumpled ear disguise traces of a more aristocratic ancestry. The paws are dainty, the bones long and delicate.
‘Well cat, what the hell do I do now? Try to find this Trevor, I suppose. Can’t call Jonathan –– he’s still in his blessed meeting. Might be easier to go back to Newmarket and find a hotel. I could ring him from there, then he can pick me up in the morning and we can sort out Trevor and his damn cottage then. What do you think?’
The cat tidies a few stray hairs in its tail, and then looks straight at her. Only now does Sally become aware of the creature’s eyes. Two orbs, clear as iced moonlight, search out her own, piercing her with their gaze and pinning her to the chair. The purring begins again, slow and soothing. Then somehow the cat is on her lap and her hand, obedient to some primitive instinct, is moving down the length of its back. Long strokes, soothing, caressing, in rhythm with the pulsating song. Sally begins to drift down a long, dreamtime tunnel. From somewhere, a long way away, she hears the voice of a woman singing an old nursery rhyme.
Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the King.
Her body jerks her awake. The cat is sitting alert, ears pricked forward. The late afternoon sunshine has completed its journey across the floor and the room is in semi-darkness.
‘Oh, God, what the hell time is it? Come on, I’ve got to get out of here. Where are my car keys? ’
The cat leaps to the floor, bounds across the kitchen and lands on top of the Aga. At a flourish of its tail the boiler emits a low-throated boom. At the same time flashes of blue lightning strike Sally’s still sleepy eyes and neon strips flood the kitchen with light. The gas fire kicks into life.
‘Oh, thank God. That’s one hell of a party trick, Puss. What do you do for an encore?’ Then her smile withers. It was just coincidence. Must have been. Or perhaps cats feel power surges in the wire or something. What the hell! Just be thankful. A reassuring red light signifies the approach of tea. At the same time a car pulls up outside.
REVIEWS –Ok, so I haven’t even finished the book and I have something to say about it. It’s awesome! I read the book description, and was slightly intrigued. But, as I got deeper into the story, it’s exactly the genre that I have been needing! There is a cat in this book, and she is definitely one of the main characters…not that she talks or anything, but she is definitely one of the players in this wonderful drama. Have you ever visited a place for the first time, and felt instinctively like you had been there before? Ever wish you could find the one place that you belonged? Ever wished that you had a friend that knew you better than you knew yourself? Well, it’s all in here, the entire village well laid out, each character well defined, even the ones you want to despise. And the spirituality in this book is so open-minded…be prepared for an introduction to Wicca and some of it’s sad history. Well Done Elenor! Well done.
Awesome book. Held my attention from beginning to end. Could hardly put it down. Will be one I read more than once.
Real witches. Not your Disney or Burning Time bullsh*t broomstick and warty black-pointed hat stereotype. Extremely refreshing. This is how I portray them too, and I wish everyone would. This review would be five stars if it weren’t for the issue of tense. There were moments where the tense felt awkward. But otherwise, what an addition you are to New Zealand Elenor, and thank you!
Excellent story. Very well written. Hooked by end of first chapter. Subtle but has lots of suspense too. Will read more of her work.
A delightful feminist read, heavy on history, friendship and magical realism.
PREVIEW – Aimee is in bed, forcing herself to stay awake. It seems to have been an incredibly long day, and she still finds the late evenings difficult to cope with after a hospital routine out-of-sync with the outside world. She’d tried watching television earlier, but as night closed in she grew increasingly aware of the house, vast and hollow around her. This isolation is going to take some getting used to. Her own fault as usual. Stubborn. Independent. Maybe she should have let Mae come with her? But after the intensity of constant care and attention, she had been thirsting for freedom. Perhaps it’s not going to be that easy to readjust. She’s not nervous about being alone — the building is well alarmed and Margaret is only two minutes away — but downstairs she was aware of the rooms stretching away behind her, one after the other, like those empty spaces in her memory.
She feels more comfortable now. Somehow this room is more enclosed and feels separate from the rest of the house. But she’s determined to stay awake, at least until eleven o’clock. She plumps the mound of pillows into a nest and snuggles down with the radio turned down low beside her. She’d found a book downstairs, an historical romance set in Tudor England. It’s a period of history that fascinates her, with all those passionate love affairs that rocked the royal houses of Europe, but tonight she’s finding it difficult to concentrate, her eyes growing heavy as they move down the page. But she manages to hold out until eleven.
The familiar signature tune fills the room, then dips to a background level as Charley’s voice overrides it. ‘Hello, all you late-night lovers out there in Music Land. It’s eleven on the clock and nearly old Baz Reardon’s Milo time. Sleep tight, Baz. Now you’re with Charley Breeze, that’s me, your host on the ride through midnight, with music to make you mellow from the golden eras of jazz and swing. So stick with me, baby, it’s gonna be a breeze.’
His signature tune swells over Aimee like a wave and it’s easy to imagine he’s speaking only to her. He introduces something upbeat from Glen Miller and his band, the warm melding of clarinet and saxophone. Aimee listens, eyes closed and smiling, until the track ends. Then he really is speaking only to her. ‘And now something special for a special lady. This one’s for you, Aimee. Rod Stewart this time, with ‘You Go to My Head’.
Aimee grins. She and Charley had instantly and unexpectedly found common ground in a shared love of the words and music from another era, long before either of them was born.
‘Listen in,’ he’d said, ‘and I’ll play something for you. Anything, just name it.’
She thought for a moment. ‘How about “You Go to My Head”?’ He’d looked at her in disbelief, her face pale against the white sheet and her head swathed in even whiter bandages. Then he’d seen the glint of mischief in her eye — and the hero in her spirit, determined not to be beaten by this.
‘OK.’ Luckily he had a Frank Sinatra version to hand and played it that evening. It became their secret message. From then on, every programme included a dedication for her: ‘This one’s for you, Aimee.’ There would be songs that he knew she loved, tracks from the CDs he’d brought to the hospital and they’d listened to together. But this particular song he played often, seeking out different versions by various singers. Any time she started feeling down, he played it to remind her that she could fight her way back up again. That’s how it started. But more and more the words began to hint at another meaning. Was it Charlie himself who went to her head? His visits were like sips of champagne — they left her light-headed and giggly, images of his clown’s smile spinning around in her brain.
Tonight the song has a yet another new and different meaning. Tonight it’s a flag of victory. As the last notes die away, Charley whispers, ‘Goodnight, Aimee.’ But she’s already asleep.
REVIEWS – Brilliant. A ghost story, a muder mystery, a love story and an insight into the workings of my own mind. This book will leave you wondering if anything you remember is real. Left me breathless.