Story Snip from Larksong: Chapter 25 and Patreon News from Monica Byrne

Some day I will catch up on updating my Books Read lists, but today is not that day!

I'm still keeping track, but haven't had a chance to clean up the blog fields tab and fields yet.

Just in case, I note here for posterity that I've read The Hobbit aloud to Miss E (age 9), and we've started on The Lord of the Rings, her first time experiencing these stories, and my first time, in 30+ years of annual rereads, reading them out loud!

Another bit from Larksong!

Larksong is set in Montreal, July 1914.

In chapter 1, Alice, after her grandmother's funeral, arrived at the family cottage to take care of her grandmother's aviary, only to find that her parents had already leased the cottage to another family for the summer. The only way she could have one more summer in her favourite place was to surreptitiously take on the role of governess to the two young girls...

In chapter 2, we met George, laid up at the hospital with a broken leg. Instead of joining his friends on a Grand Tour of Europe, he's being sent off to recuperate at a rented cottage in the country...

In chapters 3 and 4, we returned to Alice's point of view, and saw her bonding with George's younger sisters. Then she got a surprise -- George was arriving at the cottage that very day! We saw a hint that Alice finds George attractive and interesting -- but also unbearably rude.

In chapters 5 to 7, they had their first argument, then argued once more, but the stakes were higher: war is on the horizon. Then George attempted a rapprochement.

In chapters 8 to 10, Alice had some feelings stirring... During their first evening together, they began to suss each other out over a card game, and they reached a détente of sorts before going their separate ways for the night.

In chapters 11 and 12, we started the next morning in George's point of view, with his dawning realization of his attraction to Alice. Yet this realization did not lead to greater friendliness.

In chapter 13 (which I mistakenly also labelled as 12!), a new complication arose, in the form of the arrival of George's rather rude brother.
Meanwhile, George was busy with inappropriate (as he thinks) thoughts of Alice. (I skipped a scene where Alice takes the girls down to the lake and needs to pretend with a neighbour, Mrs Chase, that she is not a governess, but simply helping out with the girls. Then, while Alice is distracted, trying to spin her web of half-truths and discussing the threat of war on the horizon, Lucy gets up on a rickety boat tied up at the dock and fell off into the water.)

In chapter 14, on returning from the lake, Alice and the girls overheard an argument that ended with this outburst from George to his brother Albert: "I don't need your tales of self-pity. The question is, what are you going to do about it, now that you've f***ed it all up?"

In chapters 15 and, we witnessed the fallout from the argument, then shared a moment between Alice and George in the garden. Alice left George and resumed her governess role, and decided not to join the brothers that evening in the parlour.

In chapters 17 to 19, Alice went out early the next morning, to find George rowing on the lake, and joined him.

In chapter 20, following their early morning idyll, we finally had a true rapprochement. Alice, making up her mind in an instant, called out to George's sisters: "We're going on an expedition with your brother."
(I skipped the rest of chapter 20, in which we take a trip through the woods with Alice, George, and his sisters. There are friendly chats, the girls sign their brother's cast, and George begins work on a sketch of Alice. When they return home, the girls help Alice feed the birds in the aviary and clean it in preparation for the arrival of Mr Palmer, a prospective buyer visiting from Boston. Mr Palmer says he will make his decision on purchasing the aviary and return the next day. Throughout the day, there are hints of the gathering storms of war.)

In chapters 21 and, as Alice saw Mr Palmer off at the gate, a new complication emerged, in the arrival of Albert's friends from university. Alice and George came close to admitting their attraction, but then George unwittingly insulted the birds and the aviary and Alice's affection for her grandmother's pets.

In chapter 23, following omitted scenes (a bit of George's reflections on Alice, and his feelings for her (as well as memories of unfavourable reactions from his parents about his hobby of sketching and painting); at the end, he decides that it might be a lark to try to lure Pixie away from his brother. He proceeds to do just that before dinner as she plays up her role of nurse and guides George through some exercises in the front parlour. This leads to an arm wrestling match between all the boys, involving both wagers for a few coins--and kisses for the winner from Pixie. That evening, they all gather in the front parlour, and agree to attend the ball and bonfire at the Hatley Manor hotel the next night. George catches Albert and Pixie canoodling in the kitchen, but decides he's in no position to say anything because he was ready to embrace Alice the governess), the next day, the crowd slept in, all except Alice, who took her charges into the village to watch a magic lantern show. On their return, George decided to show them his secret--the full extent of his artistry.
It was revealed that Eleanor is also a budding artist, and the siblings agreed to continue to develop their talent and to hide it from their disapproving parents.

In chapter 24, the girls returned to the house, and Alice and George were alone in the enclosed garden, seated side by side on the bench... They kissed, and Alice revealed her true identity to George.

In chapter 25, they talk briefly about what they will do with their newfound feelings...

Elsie called from the path, "That Mr. Palmer's returned to see you."

Alice sat too close to George; it would be evident they'd been touching. She leapt up just before Elsie appeared round the turn, and stood behind his chair, as if she'd been observing the paintings from that position the entire time. She spoke in the best nonchalant tone she could affect. "Thank you, yes, I was expecting him. I'll be up presently."

"What will you do now?" George asked, as Elsie nodded and retreated.

Elsie hadn't seemed to notice anything amiss, but Alice couldn't shake the worry that she'd overlooked something. "Please don't tell anyone," she pleaded, coming around to stand before George.

"About your identity or about our tryst?" he asked, but he was teasing, eyes crinkling at the corners.

"Will you tell the others about our–-about what's happened?"

"Will you?"

"It's your family. What will they think if they believe you're, er, dallying with the governess?"

His silent laughter stopped. "Is that what you think I'm doing–-or would have done? Albert doesn't learn his bad habits from me, I assure you."

He hadn't yet clarified whether he would tell the others, she noticed. "Then what shall we do? I'd like to continue as governess until Albert and his friends have gone. I don't fancy the humiliation of having my grief exposed to their snide remarks. At least not until the birds-–oh, Mr. Palmer's here! I have to be getting back."

"Don't run off, Alice! Hand me the crutches and I'll walk with you. You can wheel the empty chair up with the crate. Please," he added, as if on an afterthought.

Before, she'd not scolded his habit of commanding others, as a governess might have. And now that he knew she was not a governess, he'd been quicker to remember his manners, even if politeness did not appear to come naturally to him.

George folded up the easel but did not hold it out to her right away. "D'you think I might have another chance to paint tomorrow? Perhaps we could leave it under the bench."

She considered the nearby rose bushes, the shelter of the overhanging wisteria, and his need to keep every aspect of his talent a secret. Appearing on the porch with the easel at this time risked having Albert and the others notice. "I expect it will be safe enough."

As she closed the lid of the crate and slid the easel under the seat, she tried to recall if she'd ever met Mr. Cunnick Senior, and wondered what he was really like. Both George and Eleanor had reflected their father's convictions about painting and deflected praise of their talents.

She turned to help George out of his chair, first lowering the contraption that held his leg straight, then handing him his crutch as he shifted to stand on his right foot, to save his left leg from carrying all his weight at once. Only when he was steady, on foot and crutch, did she hold out the second crutch.

Instead of taking it, however, he reached out and, curving an arm about her waist, drew her into his embrace. Her chin was level with his shoulder, and she could fit her head comfortably against his neck, mouth at his collar, where he had the top two buttons undone. She might kiss the very spot where sun-darkened skin gave way to a paler hue.

"This is nice," he murmured into her hair. "I could stay like this for a while."

She wrapped her arms about his waist to keep them steady as he shifted some of his weight onto her. The second crutch dropped against his chair. "I'd like to," she agreed quietly, then added in a regular tone, "but I mustn't keep Mr. Palmer waiting."

"I suppose not," George said, but did not let go at once.

Cicadas droned in the pines behind the garden, and from far off came the shrieks and calls of children at the lakeshore.

George's fingers tapped lightly at her hip. His own hipbone, so near to where his cast began, suddenly became real to her as a part of his body. How strange that their physical selves should be so fragile, with bones that could break in an instant and require months to heal fully, yet so sturdy at the same time; internal processes carried on without any conscious thought on the part of the mind. George's heartbeat was steady and strong under her hand.

A blackbird trilled on the rose bush behind the bench. She stored George's scent of spice and cinnamon deep within herself.

And then her mind sounded a warning. "George, I really must go!"

He drew his arm aside, slowly, and she passed him the crutch, set the crate on his chair, and began to wheel it up the path. There was a moment of silence, and then his step-crutch began to follow her up from the garden.

She waited at the place where the path curved and widened, and they returned to the house together.

I loved Monica Byrne's The Actual Star; here's my review from when I first read it:

The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

"David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war.

The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over two millennia and six continents —telling three powerful tales a thousand years apart, all of them converging in the same cave in the Belizean jungle.

Braided together are the stories of a pair of teenage twins who ascend the throne of a Maya kingdom; a young American woman on a trip of self-discovery in Belize; and two dangerous charismatics vying for the leadership of a new religion and racing toward a confrontation that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change.

In each era, a reincarnated trinity of souls navigates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, and love and hate—until all of their age-old questions about the nature of existence converge deep underground, where only in complete darkness can they truly see.

The Actual Star is a feast of ideas about where humanity came from, where we are now, and where we’re going—and how, in every age, the same forces that drive us apart also bind us together."

This book has been garnering rave reviews and it's evident from the reviews that the readers have loved the book as much as I did. Yet I don't think the tone of the reviews matches the book at all. Yes, it's chock full of languages and maps and historical research and scientific and philosophical questions, but emphasizing those features takes away from the heart of the story, I find. It's like those people who say they find Tolkien difficult to read because there are so many descriptions of nature; pointing out such aspects misses out on discussing the emotional arcs of the characters, the actual (!) feel of the book.

I loved the imagery woven throughout the three timelines, the echoes of past and future, the ordinary moments and the transcendent moments. I loved the emphasis on the importance of place. As a Tolkien fan, I loved the completeness with which the historical and future worlds were written. I love the idea that we may someday understand the speech of doves and cicadas!

This is the sort of book I can't wait to get as a gift for my friends and family, so that we can all talk about it!

I'm a Patron of Monica's over on Patreon!

Monica has a new introductory video out for the patreon!

I'm a patron of 15 creators at the moment, including artists, writers, musicians, photographers, podcasters, knitters, and actors. It's such a wonderful way to keep in touch with creators and see all their wonderful work.

Are you a patron or supporter of anyone?


Hi Deniz - lovely and delightful next snippet - emotionally full on - great writing. I'm looking forward to more story!

Monica's book 'The Actual Star' sounds an interesting read ... thanks for the review and notes.

Cheers Hilary
Deniz Bevan said…
Oh, I'm so happy you're enjoying it, Hilary!
CLM said…
My mother read The Hobbit to me and my younger sister when we were 8 and 6. We loved it. When I heard there were more books, I asked if we could go to the library the next day but she said it was too scary for my sister (she was probably right - a year or so later, Clare walked into the room during the Katherine Howard episode of The Six Wives of Henry VIII and had nightmares for years) and possibly me too. Nothing daunted, I got The Fellowship of the Ring out of my school library and hid it in a desk drawer at school, reading it whenever we were given free time. The rotten teacher ratted me out on parent-teacher night!

Larkspur sounds great. I like books set right before WWI.
Deniz Bevan said…
Darn teacher! I used to get in trouble for reading under my desk, too!