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Etat de neuf / As new condition / L'image peut ne pas correspondre au livre / The picture may not correspond to the book / FRANCAIS / FRENCH 000-61848 9782020618489 Points 1203. Buchnummer des Verkäufers ALAIN1610
Inhaltsangabe: Kirsty Gunn's spellbinding third novel is a portrait of the small town of Featherstone and the interior lives of its inhabitants. Over the course of one weekend, years after the beautiful and spirited Francie Johanssen fled town, rumors of her return stir memories that threaten to disrupt the community.
Gunn reveals how Francie's absence continues to shape the subconscious longings, hopes, and dreams of those she left behind, including Margaret, the local hotel's promiscuous bartender; Mary Susan, a troubled and rebellious teenager who wants to get out of town as soon as she can; Francie's elderly uncle Sonny; Harland, the faithless minister; and Kate, his despondent wife. Affected most of all, perhaps, is Ray, Francie's old high school boyfriend who has never been able to let go of her. As tension mounts in Featherstone, Gunn elegantly crafts a story that is "richly layered and rewarding" (Scotland on Sunday).
Auszug. © Nachdruck mit Genehmigung. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.:
Friday, early evening
He looked up and thought: I know you.
His hands were still in earth, where it was warm, but he withdrew them, brought them up to shade his eyes. He looked, with his hands at his forehead that way against the light, and he thought he did know her, though the light was bright on her, and around her bright, and at her back, like foil. It was late, late afternoon.
The sun, however, that was a thing he hadn?t noticed before. Though he had been out in his garden for most of the day, Johanssen had no reason to be looking at the weather. To kneel on the stiff, sweet-smelling sack he always used for work, to sift with his fingers through the freshly dug flower beds – this was all he had to do: no need to worry then about the light and time around him. Yet now, in the moment of bringing his hands up out of the earth, and the late summer sun suddenly low in the sky and too bright to see, and with the air on his thin, naked arms cooling to cold, though these weren?t his thoughts – coolness, the slight damp chill of the open air – though these weren?t his thoughts, when the voice came across to him out of the light he registered then, in that moment, the small drop of temperature and his body felt old then, he became very old when he heard her voice coming across to him from out of the light: ‘Uncle Sonny, it?s me.?
Thurson Johanssen was an old man, he didn?t need cold air to tell him. Of course he was old, he had an old man?s name, but no one called him it. He was old but still they gave him the other name, a great name he could figure, a name for someone who was only a boy.
‘Hey, Son,? they said to him.
‘What?s up, Sonny?? That was how they were with him, and he always enjoyed it. There was a lightness in their voices when they said the boy?s name.
‘Great garden again this year, Sonny Jim,? they said, and they gave him such pleasure then, with their friendly voices.
‘Your flowers, Sonny. They?re always the prettiest in town.?
It was true that he did so love the garden. He loved it in all its parts because, he could figure, all old men must love their gardens, though he?d had this one since he was a boy. He had been young like a boy when he?d begun with it, when Nona had helped him with the tiny branches and the blossom, yet still he loved the garden now like it was new, loved it in all the parts he could come to because, he supposed, it was a reminder of her, this place where his sister had first showed him how to let things grow. There was the part where the flowers had been thick, waist-high all summer in a kind of cloud, the forget-me-nots and Queen Anne?s lace, and the tall pale-coloured poppies he favoured best, pale like skins with their dark in the centre like a mouth or an eye, with their black dust. He was in that part now, where they had grown, making the earth soft again for a new planting, smoothing down the ground as if smoothing down paper to draw, the lines and shallow dips for flowers, marking with his fingertip a place for a seed.
Of course, Francie would know he?d be in his garden this time.
She would remember, even after all these years.
‘There?s no skill to a garden, there?s no talent in it? – that?s what he always said to anybody, if they talked to him about it. ‘It?s just a question of timing.? There was spring. Summer. Then autumn again. The long winter again . . . Certain times of year held certain things to be done, that was all, and she would know that, Johanssen could figure. She would remember. That with the poppies long gone and the little dry roots of lobelia weightless in the palm of his hand, he?d be somewhere in the garden now, digging over the beds, pulling out the dead plants free.
Francie would always know the way he did things, where he would be, in what part. She might have been down the back already, to look for him there, because he did love that part too. This time of year he could easily have been working there, where the grass was flat and soft and the roses grew so thick over the fence that they covered the tiny barbs in the wire that could cut you. Or further down, where the small orchard went into woods, into the willows, those trees familiar and dense and known to him but even so, when he went out there at night sometimes, after he got back from the pub, say, went out into the willows for a pee he might get lost, kind of, for a little while when it was dark, or late, or if he?d had too much to drink, maybe. Rhett would be with him, sniffing around, he might growl a little just at some small sound, and Johanssen would watch him, thinking all the while he knew exactly where they were botth standing. Then, after he?d buttoned himself up, he?d be looking around and see only the thin trunks of willows on every side, there would be no pattern in them, and that?s when he?????d be lost then, like a boy might get lost, or a young man might. All the same, he loved it down in this part of the garden too. Even as the willows kept growing, green stalks that kept coming out of the ground every spring, like wands, and he couldn?t stop them. It was because he was home there. Of course she would always know he?d be home there.
And yet . . .
There was this part of the garden where he was now, where he was kneeling, and there had been her voice, then his looking up . . .
And though she must have known that all the time he was looking and looking into the light to see her, he was looking to see but he couldn?t see. Only the sun, printing gold into black into gold against his eyes, only a dark shape against the sky, like a dear shape cut clean out of the light and laid against it . . .
I know you.
And then she was gone.
Slowly Johanssen got himself up from the ground. Stood himself up, straightened, and behind him somewhere Rhett shifted then was up on his feet like a young dog to follow. Together they walked the few paces over to the hedge at the side of the road, and stood, waiting at the hedge, but nobody there down the road, nobody. Perhaps she had turned the corner already, down at the end by the petrol pump and round the hotel into Main Street. Or maybe she had run the other way, past Bryson?s, past the Grahams?, down past Nona?s old place and then round the corner by the pine trees and gone.
Even so, they stayed, Johanssen?s eyes along the road, up and down, Rhett with his muzzle pointing up into the slight breeze as if he, too, was waiting.
‘Where did she go, eh?? Johanssen put his hand to the dog?s soft head, touched an ear that was soft.
‘Where did she go just when I could have got up to meet her?? He fondled the dog?s ear, like a fold of soft cloth between his fingers.
‘Where did she go, eh? Old boy? Where is she now?? And in time, the dog sat, lay down, a great sigh escaping from him, like from a bag, and still there was an old man, standing, looking into nothing, just the same empty road, but it was warmer there, out of the shadow where he?d been kneeling, now that he was standing in the light the sun seemed warm again on his back, on his dirt-stained arms.
* Johanssen could guess there were any number of places a person could run to in this town. Not even a town, most people would say, but you wouldn?t call it a village either. That wasn?t the right word. Village would make it something different again, so town would have to do it, though the place was small. People said they were going ‘up town? like they were going into London or New York, a queer way of putting it when you were just after the milk, or a packet of tobacco papers, but people said ‘up town? just the same. There was the main street, the Railton Hotel on the corner and the stretch of shops beyond it, a few streets going off either side. Even so, the place was big enough that you could be private if you needed. Big enough that you wouldn?t have to leave.
Johanssen had never felt he?d had to leave.
He was someone who had lived all his life in this one town. He had never gone away. He had been born here, gone to school and grown up here. Found work and retired, and even though he?d never married, stayed fixed in his ways, maybe, with his sister?s house up the road he could go to, and young Francie coming to him every day with her songs, and her stories from school, still he could tell anyone anything about the place they might want to know, the different ways to get around. Like where the roads were good, for example, if you had a car, or if you were walking along then he knew where the grass verges grew thick enough that you could climb up onto them if a big lorry came by. He could tell you where fences were broken, or where there were cracks in the concrete where the gravel showed through. Or where there were cattle grids that were hard to walk on, or drains where you could lose money . . . plenty of places where you could lose money.
A person returning to town might need to know about that kind of thing, Johanssen could figure. They would want to be reminded of where they could safely walk, and of shops where they could spend their money. Like Dalgety?s on the main street, where they had the smart clothes and the packages of books ordered in from the city, with silken threads to mark where you?d stopped reading and the thick, shiny paper covers. They might need to know about places like that, or like the post office and the bank and how they were also in the main street of town. That was a well-kept road. If you went along it to the end you came to the hall where they sometimes had dances, and then there were the showgrounds over the bridge just beyond, and that was somewhere that always had plenty going on, rugby games, the country A&P in summer. There was everything here, everything. So why feel it wasn?t enough to stay, that you?d have to leave, go searching out for more?
And yet, that?s what Francie had done, and as Johanssen stood waiting, the memory returned to him from all those years ago, of the town suddenly being full of streets and roads that instead of taking you to places that you knew, only took you away. They were paths and exits and routes marked ‘To the North?, ‘To the South?, and they were like a map of little scars, like the lines rubbed with dirt on the palms of Sonny?s hands that showed how you couldn?t bring people back, not even when Nona was buried, and flowers and earth piled over her like a bed yet still she was cold and wanted Francie there . . . No, by then Sonny knew there were certain roads you could lose yourself if you wanted, you could hide. You could be deep in the high country on a twisting, empty, unsealed track, or lost in traffic on a four-lane highway. Either way, you weren?t coming back. Even the little slip-way out of town Johanssen had helped seal, from his days as a working man, was somewhere you could disappear if you wanted. You would simply drive down that tiny road to the gate, open the gate, close it behind you, and it would be like you were nowhere in the world. You?d go deeper and deeper into trees, following a grass towpath all the way down through the Reserve to the river. It could get muddy there in winter, and dangerous to drive if the water was high, but still the council kept the undergrowth back so there was always a clear path and space enough amongst the trees to park a car. It was somewhere Ray Weldon often went, Johanssen knew, and he was fond of Ray.
That wasn?t a place, though, for most people. It was too dark, even in high summer, and shadowy mostly with water and leaves. Johanssen himself would never go there. He would just carry on down the sealed road half a mile past the river turn-off, ignoring that sign; he would just keep going straight ahead to where the road eventually brought you back again to the outskirts of town. Bob Alexander?s garage was along that way, a nice place sitting outside in the sun, where he did the mechanics and electricals, and the Carmichaels? lumber yard opposite, though Johnny Carmichael always said he was going to move from there, because he was too near the holy cross of the church for his liking, didn?t want the minister hearing him swear.
‘Too damn near,? Johnny Carmichael would say, proudly, and it was like Johanssen could hear the scream of the cutting timber in the background whenever Johnny shouted, whisky on his breath.
‘For the Carmichaels,? he would shout. ‘Too damn near, and their wild ways.?
Johanssen laughed a bit, just then, thinking about Johnny and how he talked so big.
‘Got a load on today . . .? His eyes would be blue as blue, and his hair still black from where he used the grease. ‘. . . but nothing my horsepower can?t handle.? It was like Johnny and the Carmichaels thought they were princes of the place sometimes, the way they might swagger about, and give on as if they knew things other people couldn?t, about strengths or weights, or money, when all the time they were just like everybody else and probably guessing.
Even so, as he stood there by the hedge in the last of the afternoon sun, Johanssen thought he might ask Johnny tonight, if he?d noticed anybody new arriving in town, a young woman. He could ask Johnny or Gaye, or any of their boys. The boys would probably be the best ones to ask, always out on the lookout for things happening, driving around in their father?s beat-up old trucks and pick-ups, doing all the picking up anyone could handle. Johanssen laughed again a bit, at that, a kind of a joke he?d made, and thinking of those Carmichael boys. He would see them tonight, no doubt, and their father; he?d ask them all when he saw them at the Railton Bar tonight.
Had they seen . . . he would ask.
And he?d ask Margaret behind the bar, too.
‘Funny thing,? he might say then, when Margaret had his glass put out before him, and when his first sip had been taken from it. ‘Funny thing . . .? And he would wipe the wetness of the beer from his mouth with the back of his hand, or with a handkerchief even, but all the time keeping it casual, acting very casual.
‘This afternoon,? he would say, and he would take another small sip of beer.
‘Thought I saw someone I haven?t seen in a long while.?
‘Thought I saw Nona?s little girl.?
Copyright © 2002 by Kirsty Gunn. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
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