ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #Extract from The Reckoning by Clár Ní Chonghaile @clarnic @Legend_Press
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Reckoning by Clár Ní Chonghaile. I was really hoping to read this fabulous sounding book but I’m afraid time got away from me. What I do have for you today is an extract from chapter 1. My thanks to Lucy Chamberlain for the place on the tour and providing an e-copy of the book.
I have a story to tell you, Diane. It is my story and your story and the story of a century that remade the world. When we reach the end, you will be the ultimate arbiter of whether it was worth your time. You will also sit in judgment on me.
In a cottage in Normandy, Lina Rose is writing to the daughter she abandoned as a baby. Now a successful if enigmatic author, she is determined to trace her family’s history through the two world wars that shaped her life. But Lina can no longer bear to carry her secrets alone, and once the truth is out, can she ever be forgiven?
Chonghaile stuns in her second book for Legend Press weaving a complex narrative covering conflict, secrets, judgement and what it takes to sever family ties.
It does not feel quite right to be sipping wine as I try to figure out if I killed a man. Or, perhaps more accurately, if I drove two men to their deaths. I fear wine is not up to the task. After a lifetime of loyalty to Sauvignon Blanc, I have opted for a ‘ripe and bold’ South African red. I bought it partly because I liked the description on the label – this wine sounds like me, although I am, now, more ripe than bold – but mostly to annoy the sweaty, limp-haired lady in the wine shop in Caen. Quelle horreur! L’Anglaise is not buying French wine. In France! But however bold, even this wine does not, in my opinion, have the gravitas needed for what I am trying to do. I forgot to buy whiskey from the scowling crone and so wine will have to do.
In any case, at my age, whiskey might finally prove my equal. I’ve always won our battles before, still standing as the bottle spun off the table and onto the floor, empty, exhausted, submissive at last. I was proud of my prowess as a drinker. It was something I worked hard at, a professional badge of honour. But nowadays, I’m not sure I wouldn’t end up on the floor myself, my old carcass rattling noisily onto the flagstones like bones cast down by wrinkle-stitched shamans predicting the future. Of all the indignities of old age, not being able to hold my drink bothers me most. Not least because of the pure maliciousness of it. Old age is precisely when one has the greatest need to be a functioning drunk all the livelong day. The irony distresses and delights me in equal measure.
You know where I am because I wrote to you the day before I left, asking you to join me. But I do not really believe you will come, Diane. To be crude, what’s in it for you? I know why I am here. You might say it’s an odd fancy, the product of an age-addled mind that’s beginning to misfire, but I think I might be able to unearth the beginning, the end and most importantly the middle of my story in this place. Even though this is the first time I have set foot in Lion-sur-Mer.
I could have chosen another town. This coast is pimpled with human acne – bars, restaurants, nondescript apartments with bright towels hanging over the balcony rails like flags of convenience. But Lion-sur-Mer is his beach and I liked the absurdity of the name. Lion on the sea. The king of the savannah, adrift and lost in the waves. An aptly fantastical Narnia name for a place that wears the horror of its past so lightly. The welcome booklet on the hall table of this pastel-primped cottage tells me the name may have come from some lion-shaped rocks or reefs. That is too mundane for my liking. I want to imagine a real lion striding down the beach with that peculiarly slow motion, flip-footed grace that all felines have. Where did he come from, this regal sea lion? Who knows? There are more things in heaven and earth, as my mother used to sigh, when she did not know what else to say. If such a thing is true anywhere, it must be true here, where the unthinkable was thought, the undoable done and where the ground still bears the scars of a war that did not know it was not supposed to be. Pockmarked and gutted, the grass and wildflowers do their best to blur the edges, but like wreaths on a coffin, they only draw the eye to the truth.
Enough of fantasies. Shall I tell you what I see before me right now? Shall I fool myself into believing you will read this letter, be transported beyond anger by my masterful prose and pack your bags to come and join me? Why not? I have all the time in the world now to indulge the wildest, most unfounded dreams. At least until the wine, bread and cheese run out and the sand stops trickling through the hourglass of my brain. I’ve never set much store by fad diets with their restrictions, deadlines and unreal expectations but I may have finally found the perfect diet for me: eat this food and then be done. I like its simplicity. I will dream my fantasies as long as I can, as long as there is some cerebral activity to spark these visions into life.
And if that has whetted your appetite then you can read the rest of the chapter here.
Clár Ní Chonghaile was born in London but grew up in An Spidéal, County Galway. She left Ireland aged 19 to join Reuters in London as a graduate trainee journalist. Clár has been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, living and working in Spain, France, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Kenya. She now lives in St Albans, England, with her husband and two daughters. Her debut novel, Fractured, was published by Legend Press in 2016.