02 April 2015

Excerpt Thursday: HOUSE ON THE BEACH by Joan Fallon

This week, we're welcoming author Joan Fallon again, whose latest title is HOUSE ON THE BEACHJoin us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of House on the Beach in ebook format - this giveaway is open internationallyBe sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

This is the story of Rocio and Inma, two girls who first meet as children and despite coming from very different social backgrounds become close friends. Rocio is the daughter of an Andalusian peasant, who makes his living from the land, growing olives and keeping goats; Inma is the daughter of a rich businessman, who lives and works in Madrid.

We follow the lives of these two girls from childhood to maturity, as they share happiness, fears, disappointments, broken hearts and betrayals. Rocio is a shy and trusting girl, who becomes easily seduced by a handsome foreigner, while Inma, confident and manipulative, is the one who saves her from disgrace and the inevitable expulsion from the family home.  But when Inma too becomes pregnant, things take a more sinister turn and her subsequent actions have a devastating affect on Rocio and her husband. 

This social drama of two women trying to take control of their lives, despite living under a harsh dictatorship, offers a glimpse of what life was like in an authoritarian State, with an ever watchful Catholic Church and the close strictures of society.

**An Excerpt from House on the Beach**

Inma’s knees hurt from the hard floor; she peeped through her fingers to see if anyone else felt as uncomfortable as she did but those she could see without turning her head were all deep in prayer. 
“.....Give us a diligent and obedient spirit, quickness of apprehension, capacity of retaining and the powerful assistance of Thy holy grace that what we hear or learn we may apply to Thy honour and the eternal salvation of our own souls,” the young voices chanted in unison then lifted their voices to heaven as they sang, rather than intoned, a heartfelt “Amen”. 
The Mother Superior stood, still facing the image of the Virgin Mary that dominated the classroom wall, and genuflected before turning to look at the kneeling girls.  She paused to allow the solemnity of the moment to sink in then said:
‘Very well girls, you may rise and take your seats.  Remember no talking.’
Inma rose with the others, brushed her plaid skirt back into place and pulled up her regulation navy socks.  Three of the other nuns came in and, like so many magpies, fluttered around their leader in her long black habit with its stiff white yoke.  The Mother Superior whispered their instructions to them and they passed between the rows handing out the test papers.
Inma felt restless, there was only one more week to the holidays but before that there were the exams.  The first was this morning, arithmetic.  She looked over her shoulder at her best friend, Susana, she seemed on the point of tears.  Inma smiled at her and gave a little wave of her hand.  They had spent all the previous evening together revising for the exam but still Susana could not grasp the concept of long division.  She had gone to bed in tears and nothing Inma could say would console her.  She whispered a short prayer for them both, touching the silver cross that hung beneath her uniform.
  Her father had given her the cross a few months before when she was confirmed.  She had gone home for the confirmation.  Papi had come to collect her in the car because Mama wanted her confirmed in the same church as all the rest of the family, the Iglesia de San Andres.  It had been her best day ever.  Mama had bought her a beautiful dress of white muslin, with a long, full skirt, that swayed when she walked and white satin shoes.  Afterwards they had gone to a restaurant for lunch and all her brothers and sisters were there, but not Adolfo, and all her cousins and aunts and uncles.  Susana had been confirmed in the school chapel with some of the other girls; her mother would not let her go home but she did come and visit her and bring her a present.
  Just five more days, this time next week she would be in her own home again; a wave of longing escaped from her chest like a silent sigh.  She missed her own house, her cat, her rows of now neglected dolls, her mirror with its furbelow of gold and pink wood, the dolls’ house that her eldest brother had sent her from Argentina and most of all her own bedroom with its flouncy, pink curtains and a bedspread that matched, with its white painted wardrobes where all her pretty dresses hung.  She had not been home since the beginning of May.
The Mother Superior rapped on her desk with a ruler.
‘Right girls, you have forty minutes to complete this arithmetic paper.  Remember there is to be no talking and no looking across at your neighbour.  Good luck.  Now turn over your papers and begin.’

Learn more about author Joan Fallon

Joan says of her latest novel, “I was inspired to write this novel after interviewing a number of Spanish women for my book Daughters of Spain. The things they told me about life after the Spanish Civil War was rich material for a novel.”