Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

Releasing in Paperback tomorrow, out on Kindle now!
'There is everything to admire in this novel - the crisp writing, the fully-realized characters -- but it's Swift's sensitive and vivid portrayal of the Moriscos that especially sets this novel apart. A Divided Inheritance achieves what all stellar historical fiction must: through the voices of imagined characters, important lessons from the past linger and haunt long after the book is finished.' 
Langum Prize winner Ann Weisgarber
EXTRACT from Chapter 2

After an hour they were back at West View House, unlacing
muddy boots in the hall. Elspet hung up her cloak, and heard the
door creak open behind her. She paid it no mind, accustomed as
she was to the servants coming and going with coals for the grate.
But a hand on her shoulder made her swivel round, startled.
He was never back from work this early. From the corner of her
eye she saw Martha dip a ragged curtsey, both dogs were growling
and barking and pulling at her.
‘What a din,’ Father said. ‘Martha, take those wretched dogs
out the back, to the stables.’
Martha bobbed and pulled the dogs away. Elspet heard Jakes
barking all the way to the back door.
‘Elspet, may I introduce your cousin, Zachary Deane.’ It was
only then that she saw him, the stranger hanging slightly back in
the doorway, his eyes casting quick, sidelong glances about the hall.
‘Oh,’ she said, pulling off her muddy gloves in haste and putting
them aside. ‘I wondered what was the matter with the dogs.’
‘You’re too soft with them,’ her father reproached.
‘They look like fine animals,’ Zachary, the young man, said. He
placed one hand on his sword as he made a small bow.
Father’s fingers pulled nervously at the edge of his robe. The
newcomer was still bent over and she saw his hair was tangled and
damp with perspiration. He swung back to upright with a brisk
wave of his hat.
Father nodded to her to prompt a response.
‘Oh – your servant,’ she murmured, dipping her head first to
the newcomer, and then to her father, ‘Forgive me, Father, you
caught me by surprise.’
She tried to catch the young man’s eye and smile, but he glanced
away, finding something of interest in the yard.
‘Zachary is my sister’s boy,’ Father said in a rush. ‘But Magda—
’, he broke off. ‘I mean to say, Zachary’s mother and I have been
estranged for some years. Unfortunately, she has passed away.’
Zachary smiled thinly at Father, his lips compressed, and then
looked at the ground.
‘I did not know she was gone,’ Father said, ‘and Zachary and I
have only just found each other.’
‘My condolences, Cousin.’ Elspet’s first impression was that
Zachary did not look like a man in mourning – not wearing that
shoddy rust-coloured doublet and cloak worn to grey at the hem.
She wondered if he was ill-fed; his hose sagged at the ankles.
‘With his mother gone, it is right and fitting we do our duty and
look to our own,’ Father said. ‘Zachary will lodge in the lower
chambers, and I know you will make him welcome.’
In the distance Diver was yapping. Elspet gathered herself. She
regretted not being warmer or more welcoming, especially as her
cousin had been bereaved. He must think her lacking in courtesy.
She smoothed her ruffled hair and said, ‘What a terrible thing. I am
so sorry to hear of your loss, I hope you will feel at home here.’
Father turned to him. ‘The lower chambers are not much, but —’
‘They will be better than I am used to, I’m sure,’ Zachary interrupted
him. ‘Do not go to any trouble on my account.’ His voice
was pleasant and neutral, though his eyes darted restlessly round
the hall.
Father patted him on the arm sympathetically. An unusual gesture,
for he was never much given to outward shows of affection.
He must be trying hard, Elspet thought.
‘Good.’ Father exhaled a long sigh. ‘I’ll take Zachary down,
and Coleman will help him fetch his trunk from the carriage.’
‘No need,’ Zachary said. ‘It’s paltry few things. I can do it
‘Coleman will assist you. No point having servants else.’
Zachary was about to speak but then closed his mouth. Instead
he gave a curt nod. He cast Elspet a long appraising look before
turning and going back out of the door.
When he was out of earshot, Father said, ‘You will grow to like
him, I know you will.’
‘I like him already.’
‘No you don’t. It is written clear as clear on your face. You
looked him up and down as though he were a servant you were
about to hire.’
Indignation rose up in her. Father had described exactly the way
Zachary had looked at her.


Carol McGrath said...

Reading and loving it. Outstanding prose too never mind the dialogue, characterisation and story line.

Deborah Swift said...

Thank you Carol, for such a lovely comment! I'm not a blusher, but I'm a 'looking at the floor in an embarrased kind of way' person!