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EXTRACT: The Other Guinness Girl: A Question of Honor

By September 27, 2022October 8th, 2022No Comments

THE EXTRACT

 

This week’s extract is from the latest book by Emily Hourican, The Other Guinness Girl: A Question of Honor


THE EXTRACT
 

This week's extract is from the latest book by Emily Hourican, The Other Guinness Girl: A Question of Honor

Prologue

Elveden, Suffolk, December 1936

The chalky green mound of Elveden’s copper-domed roof rose high above bare branches that scraped fretfully at a white sky. There were many houses – ‘town’ was Grosvenor Place in London, Pyrford was the house where her mother had grown up – but ‘home’ for Honor was still Elveden. The broad three-storey front, built of honey-coloured stone, that undulated out from either . . .

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Prologue

Elveden, Suffolk, December 1936

The chalky green mound of Elveden’s copper-domed roof rose high above bare branches that scraped fretfully at a white sky. There were many houses – ‘town’ was Grosvenor Place in London, Pyrford was the house where her mother had grown up – but ‘home’ for Honor was still Elveden. The broad three-storey front, built of honey-coloured stone, that undulated out from either side of the round copper roof comforted her as she had hoped it would. Here, in this solid expression of her parents’ way of life, it would be possible to escape the anxious turmoil of the king’s abdication, and her husband’s obsession with it. She leaned back against the upholstered seat and pulled the thick fur of her turned-up collar tight around her neck.

It was cold. Frost nibbled at the close-cropped stubble that showed pale winter gold above the hard brown earth of the bare fields. In the places where sun didn’t reach at that time of year, the frost deepened its dusty cover so that the land was unevenly divided into warmer straw-coloured heights and chill white hollows. Beside her on the seat, Bundi lay asleep, head sunk on his paws.

On the far side of the dog, Chips sat and stared out his own window. He was silent, one hand buried in Bundi’s thick fur, moving rhythmically, scratching the dog’s neck. He had been already awake when she got up that morning, wrapped in a maroon silk dressing gown, drinking coffee and re-reading the newspapers from the day before as he waited for that day’s to be delivered. Hunched over his desk, worrying over what the papers would say, whether his name would be mentioned and in what context, he had reminded her of nothing so much as a large sad child with a small broken toy. Half of her had hoped he would say he wouldn’t come to Elveden.

How much she longed to be alone with her parents, and darling Paul of course. To feel herself once more contained within the careful structure of their lives, the life she had grown up with – there, in that house, at school in Bath, the regular summer visits to her cousins in Ireland. That was a life that had neat edges, boundaried by the causes to which her parents gave their time – politics, science, charity.

Those were solid things, where the effort one made received the outcome one expected; so unlike the shifting sands on which Chips built his existence, the treacherous bog of society where he had set up his tent. How nice it would be to have a few days off from that – from his embarrassing ambition and petty disappointments, and now this, the thing he described as ‘the dashing of all my hopes’. It was the dashing of his hopes, but it was also the unpicking of a monarchy, and a national crisis. But those things held little reality for him. Had he always been like that? she wondered. The truth was, she knew he had. Only she had not always understood it. At first, she had believed in his talk of a passion for politics, for change.

Over the years of their marriage she had learned that really, what he meant was politics where he was at the centre, change that brought something glittering to him. How long it had taken her to understand. ‘We are arrived,’ she said as the motorcar drew to a halt before the vast double doors of Elveden. Chips sighed and stayed where he was. ‘My parents will be eager to see you. And Paul.’ He smiled briefly at her mention of their son. Then lapsed into silence again. ‘We came so close,’ he said. ‘I did it for Paul. For you.’ But he hadn’t. He had done it for himself. She wondered when, exactly, she had learned not to be bewitched by what he said. To see, instead, what he meant.

The Other Guinness Girl:
A Question of Honor by
Emily Hourican is
available now