I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and I don’t usually like those which feature real people, but Shelter by Sarah Franklin just screams at me to read it. I’m delighted I have a copy waiting for me on my TBR and that I can share an extract from Shelter today as part of these paperback celebrations. My grateful thanks to Midas PR for inviting me to participate.
Published by Bonnier Zaffre, Shelter is available for purchase here.
Early spring 1944.
In a clearing deep within an English forest two lost souls meet for the first time.
Connie Granger has escaped the devastation of her bombed out city home. She has found work in the Women’s Timber Corps, and for her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.
Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. But in the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.
Their meeting signals new beginnings. In each other they find the means to imagine their own lives anew, and to face that which each fears the most.
But outside their haven, the world is ravaged by war and old certainties are crumbling. Both Connie and Seppe must make a life-defining choice which threatens their fragile existence. How will they make sense of this new world, and find their place within it? What does it mean to be a woman, or a foreign man, in these days of darkness and new light?
A beautiful, gentle and deeply powerful novel about finding solace in the most troubled times, about love, about hope and about renewal after devastation. It asks us to consider what makes a family, what price a woman must pay to live as she chooses, and what we’d fight to the bitter end to protect.
An Extract from Shelter
Connie draped the frock against her overalls and dragged the rickety chair over to the window, craning to catch a glimpse of her reflection. Behind the panes, finger-like twigs tapped at her and she jumped. This place gave her the willies, always something creaking or scratching. Whoever thought the countryside was still and calm hadn’t spent any damn time in it.
She twisted on the chair to get a better look at the dress and nearly toppled over. Hmm. The dress was made for someone else and it showed. It was going to be a hell of a squeeze to get into it after the time on the farm.
She gritted her teeth, willed the stampeding thoughts away. The yellow dress would have to do – and perhaps the music would snap her out of these doldrums.
Connie dropped the dress onto the bed. In no time at all she’d be out there on the dance floor, whirling around, and for those few hours nothing else would matter. Not this war, not what the future held, none of it.
She lay back on the bed for a moment, the counterpane scratching her cheek, and screwed up her eyes. She’d loved the dances back home in Coventry, had lived for that tingly moment when the factory’s closing siren would rise in duet with the shrill clamour of the girls. They’d all dash to the lavs shrieking with the fun of it, the foremen yelling at them to pipe down a bit but them paying no real notice. They’d cluster round the sliver of mirror above the sink and chatter like magpies as they did themselves up, then head out into the city.
Invincible, that’s what they’d been. But then, before they’d even known what they had, it was shattered.
Connie shivered. ‘Right, let’s get this thing on.’
She discarded her overalls and squashed herself into the dress, its faded cotton soft against her skin after the lumberjill dungarees, a reminder of when life was all dances. She twirled and the full skirt span out around her like a chink of light escaping from a blackout. There was no full-length looking glass anywhere in the cottage, so Connie had to trust that she wasn’t flashing her scanties where the buttons that ran down the bodice gaped and strained. She’d get Hetty to check at the hostel, cover up any dodgy bits with a brooch. Wouldn’t be the first time they’d been on display, admittedly, but things were different now.
Jagged thoughts crawled along the edges of her mind. Connie took a deep breath to shoo them out. Better hang up those sopping wet socks in the window to try and dry them out before tomorrow’s shift. She just couldn’t be doing with drawing stocking seams on her legs tonight; she was licked. Anyway, it itched when she did that, and she’d forget the pencil was there and rub one leg against the other, like she always did. She tiptoed down the stairs, trying and failing to avoid the one that creaked. She jolted past it, the wood cold where the carpet had worn down, and paused at the bottom, one hand on the newel post.
She’d better go and say goodnight to Amos, or try at least – keep kidding herself that they actually spoke to each other rather than circling like Heinkels waiting for the signal to start the bombing. She pushed open the door into the little back room and the homesickness roared out at her so strongly that she stepped back again. The air in here was heavy, tangy; Connie could almost taste Hillview Road again in the stewed tea and ash from the grate.
(Gosh I love this. I’m off to rearrange my TBR so that Shelter is nearer the top!)
About Sarah Franklin
Sarah Franklin grew up in rural Gloucestershire and has lived in Austria, Germany, the USA and Ireland. She lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes University and has written for the Guardian, Psychologies magazine, The Pool, the Sunday Express and the Seattle Times.
Sarah is the founder and host of Short Stories Aloud, and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award. Sarah lives in between London and Oxford with her family.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahEFranklin.
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