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Authors: Jane Rusbridge

Rook

BOOK: Rook
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Praise for
Rook

 


Rook
is an astonishingly vivid book; colours, textures, sounds, landscape, weather – a locality so precisely evoked that it rises up from the page as you read, and surrounds you with the fabric of the imagined lives which inhabit it. They are fascinating and compelling lives, and the plot delves into the layers of their past actions and secrets, delicately peeling them away ... an utterly engrossing novel’ Lynn Roberts,
The Tablet

 

‘A mesmerising story of family, legacy and turning back the tides, from acclaimed novelist Jane Rusbridge,
Rook
beautifully evokes the shifting Sussex sands, and the rich stream of history lying just beneath them’
Living North

 

‘A powerful tale ... intensely written’
Lifestyl
e

 

‘Compelling, absorbing and beautifully written’ Patricia Duncker, author of
Hallucinating Foucault

 

‘The Anglo-Saxon material is genuinely fascinating and the writing itself is really fine – often lush and ambitiously poetic, but always controlled’
Daily Mail

 

‘What a good novelist Jane Rusbridge is! I love the way she combines dexterous storytelling with deliciously descriptive, poetic prose. The people, the landscape they inhabit, even the birds in the air, are all vividly rendered in this mesmerising and multilayered story’ Marika Cobbold, author of
Drowning Rose

 

‘A wonderfully written and atmospheric novel rooted in the landscape and history of the village of Bosham and its surroundings on the Sussex coast. The expressive and emotional power of natural, temporal, musical, interpersonal, and mental rhythms and relations permeate Rusbridge’s narrative and prose’ wordsofmercury.wordpress.com

 

‘An affecting work, closely woven, beautifully tempered, and it bears out the promise of Jane's first novel,
The Devil’s Music
,
in fine style; it's a superb piece of writing’ cornflowerbooks.co.uk

 

‘Rusbridge’s fine perceptions of the natural world, the way her writing is steeped in the landscape, history and culture of West Sussex, help define her as a talented new regional voice’ Rachel Hore, bookoxygen.com

 

‘A novel of complex relationships and the uncovering of buried secrets; the language is lyrical and the rhythm of the prose melodic, reflecting the music that is so much a part of Nora ... An exquisitely written, atmospheric and deeply affecting novel’ susanelliotwright.co.uk

 

‘A book to live in and to feel in all its textures and layers. Jane Rusbridge can do this because her lyric writing is excellent – accurate, potent and evocative. Definitely a book for the connoisseurs of language’ litlove.wordpress.com

 

‘A story of human fragility in the inexorable presence of the past, and of compassion that enables us to survive our own histories – an enthralling read’ trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com

 

 

 

In memory of my parents,

Hugh and Jeanne Winchester

At walking pace,

Between overgrown verges,

The dead here are borne

Towards the future.

 

Seamus Heaney, ‘A Herbal’,
Human Chain

Contents

1

 

May

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

 

June

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

 

July

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

 

August

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

 

Autumn

38

39

40

41

42

43

 

Winter

44

45

 

Author’s Note

Acknowledgements

A Note on the Author

Also available by Jane Rusbridge

Q&A with Jane Rusbridge

1

Sussex, mid-eleventh century

The battlefield was churned to mud, air slugged with the smell of charnel. Late in the day they found his two brothers and, thinking he might be close by, sent down to the nearby camp for her, with Gytha, his mother. Like the others he had been stripped, mutilated. Edyth knew him immediately, although there was no head.

She knew the swell of muscle in his shoulders and the splay of underarm hair, the beady knots tangled there; the thicket on his chest – a few hairs, straight and white, around his nipples – and the dark line that ran off-centre down to his groin, now black with blood. She fell on all fours, fingers in the gawm, to kneel astride him, to press her nose and mouth to his chest where his smell was strongest, but even there he was cold, where the beat of his blood had always warmed her, his flesh lardy as a dead pig’s. Her fingers kneading his shoulders slid away and she recoiled from the heap to face into the wind and lose the raw smell of blood. She thought of their children.

The year was dying: wind and wet leaves, a mist rolling in from the swan-räd. Her teeth began to chatter. The leech of fear must have sucked strength from him at the end of the day’s fighting, dusk about to fall. Other women wept as they floundered in quagmire, searching, hands or bundled cloth clamped over their mouths and noses.

‘Is it him?’ His mother, Gytha, had never liked her. She gripped Edyth’s arms and shook until her bones tumbled. ‘We can offer gold,’ Gytha whispered. A hand under Edyth’s chin jerked her face to the watery sky. ‘My son’s body weight in gold so we may take him away and bury him.’

They will not allow it, Edyth thought, but she held her quiet and gazed down the hill towards the woods where smoke rose from the camps. Gathering rooks blackened the leafless branches of trees. Her body remembered his weight knocking the breath from her. He should have been exhausted after riding and marching for weeks, a battle and the slaying of his brother at Stamford. The days in London would not have provided respite. Thinking to soothe, she had brought aromatic salves and oils to his tent, ready to massage his lower back and rub deep into his hip where bone-ache made him grunt as he swung off his horse. He was no longer young but his body was broad and, a warrior since boyhood, his mind was tooth and claw. His feral pacing told of exhilaration at the thought of battle. He ignored her oils and potions, grasped her by the neck and kissed her. She felt the clash of teeth, her hands in his matted hair, his tongue opening her.

Edyth lifted her eyes and, seeing the clench of Gytha’s face, turned to the other women. She told them she could not touch him again, but they should look above the hard swathes of muscle at his shoulder to that tender ridge where the neck begins to sweep upwards. There, she told them, they would find an imprint of the crooked marks of her teeth.

May

2

BOOK: Rook
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