Today I am excited to be part of the blog tour for The Separation.
I am delighted to share with you the second chapter of the book along with my review.
Thank you to Celeste at Penguin Books for inviting me to be part of the tour and sending me a copy of the book to review!
Lydia dumped her dusty case. Out on the patio, her daughters’ bikes lay abandoned beside the jacaranda tree.
‘Emma, Fleur,’ she called out. ‘Mummy’s home.’
She stepped from the patio to glance down the pebble path that led to the long grass. As the sky darkened, an enormous moth, from the fringes of the jungle, smacked her in the cheek. She brushed its black dust off, then ducked back inside to escape the oncoming rain.
‘Alec?’ she called again. ‘I’m home.’
Her husband’s clean-cut features came to mind, skin smelling strongly of soap from the Chinese market, light brown hair cut short back and sides. There was no reply.
She fought off a pang of disappointment in the too-silent house. She’d sent a telegram, just as he’d asked; so where were her family? It was too hot to have gone for a walk. Were they at the pool perhaps, or maybe Alec had taken the girls for tea at the club?
She climbed the stairs to her bedroom, glanced at a photo of Emma and Fleur on the bedside table, and felt such a surge of love. She had missed them.
After undressing, she ran her fingers through her shoulder- length auburn hair, and flicked on the fan. Tired from the journey, and a month looking after a sick friend, she really needed a bath. She pulled open the wardrobe doors, stopped short, frowned. Her breath caught – none of Alec’s clothes were there. Throwing on her loosely woven kimono, she ran barefoot to her daughters’ room.
Someone had left their wardrobe open, and she saw, straight- away, that it was practically empty. Just a few pairs of roughly folded shorts on the top shelf, and crumpled paper on the one beneath. Where were all of their clothes?
What if, she thought, but the sentence died in her throat. She steadied her breathing. That’s what they want: the men in the jungle. To frighten us. She imagined what Alec would say: Hold your head up. Don’t let them win. But what can you expect to feel, when they throw a grenade into a marketplace packed with people?
She spun round at the sound of a cry, and ran to the window. Her shoulders slumped. Just the flying foxes hanging in the tree. With one hand on her heart, she slid her fingers under the crumpled lining paper in the wardrobe and pulled out one of
Em’s notebooks, hoping for a clue. She sat on the camphor wood chest, sniffed the comforting familiar smell, and clasped the note- book to her. She took a deep breath, then opened the notebook to read:
The matriarch is a fat lady with a flabby neck. Her name is Harriet Parrott. She has raisin eyes and a shiny buttery nose which she tries to hide with powder. She slides on little feet in Chinese slippers, but wears long skirts, so you can only just see them at the edges.
Harriet. Had they gone to Harriet?
She stopped abruptly, grasped the edge of the chest, reeling from a rush of heat and the panic that was rising in her. Too much was missing. A note. Of course. He must have left a note. Or a message with the servants.
She ran downstairs two at a time, missing her footing, diving into the downstairs rooms: living rooms, kitchen, scullery, the covered corridor to the servants’ day quarters, and the store- houses. Just a couple of abandoned crates remained, everywhere was dark and empty, the servants gone. No amah’s rocking chair, no cook’s day bed, all the gardener’s tools removed. She scanned the room – no note.
She listened to the rain and, biting a fingernail, racked her brain, hardly able to think for air so heavy it weighed her down. She pictured her journey back home, hours squashed against the jammed train window, a hand cupped over her nose. The pun- gent odour of vomit from a sickly Indian boy. The distant gunfire.
She doubled over, winded by their absence. Fought for breath. This couldn’t be. She was tired. She wasn’t thinking straight. There had to be a rational explanation. There had to be. Alec would have found a way to tell her if they’d had to leave. Wouldn’t he?
She swivelled round and called their names, ‘Emma, Fleur.’ She choked back a sob and pictured Fleur’s dimpled chin, blue eyes, fair hair parted with a bow. Then, recalling the jungle mists that concealed desperate men, her worst fear overtook any remaining chance of rational hope. Sweat crawled under her kimono, her eyes began to smart and she covered her mouth with her palm.
With trembling hands she picked up the phone to dial Alec’s boss. He’d know what had happened. He’d tell her what to do.
Then, she sat with the phone in her lap, sweat growing cold on her skin, flies humming overhead, the sound of the fan churning, click, click, click, and the flutter of a moth’s wings beating the air. The line was dead.
A country at war with itself,
a family divided and betrayed,
a bond that can never be broken…
Malaya, 1955. Lydia Cartwright returns from visiting a sick friend to an empty house. The servants are gone. The phone is dead. Where is her husband Alec? Her young daughters, Emma and Fleur?
Fearful and desperate, she contacts the British District Officer and learns that Alec has been posted up country. But why didn’t he wait? Why did he leave no message?
Lydia’s search takes her on a hazardous journey through war-torn jungle. Forced to turn to Jack Harding, a man she’d vowed to leave in her past, she sacrifices everything to be reunited with her family.
And while carrying her own secrets, Lydia will soon face a devastating betrayal which may be more than she can bear . . .
The Separation follows the narratives of mother and daughter Lydia and Emma.
Coming home to an empty house, Lydia is left bereft! Where are her family? What’s happened to them?
Dinah Jeffries pours emotion into the pages as we follow our main protagonist on her quest to discover the truth.
This is a beautiful story that tugs at your heart strings and leaves you wanting to envelope the characters in a cocoon of safety!
The descriptiveness and research that flows throughout the story will have the reader picturing the warm climate of Malaya whilst discovering the history of the country.
Then with a smooth fluidly you are transported to the dreary streets of England.
The juxtaposition of the two countries at the time adds to the turmoil of what the characters are going through.
I found myself pulled into two lives that were shrouded in grief, empathising with two women who
are battling to get their lives on track.
Every woman in this story shows a strength of character that should be commended.
One of the kindest characters is Veronica, someone who was driven to help when it was needed the most!
Dinah Jeffries has created a superb debut that connects with your emotions instantly and transports your mind to a different era.