An Icy Tale
A clamouring telephone interrupts the business of May Sheppard’s farmhouse kitchen. A violent blast of arctic air blows in from the yard, snow piles up and the farm is cut off from the outside world.
May and her clan come in from the cold, pull off heavy coats and balaclavas, to learn the news that a boy from the village is missing. In this weather?
So begins another country saga from fellow author Beryl P Brown. It’s always a pleasure to chat to another scribbler, especially if they’re local, as is Beryl in East Anglia’s Stour Valley, and I’ve reviewed her latest novel, May’s Stony Road, which picks up from her wartime original May’s Boys. Only this time it’s two years after the war in a penurious Britain still making do and mending and finding that victory is still a bleak place to be.
I first met Beryl at a literary festival where we were both fretting over the similarities of our book titles. Never fear! Changes were made.
A frequent pleasure is to dip into an old novel – been on the bookcase for years! – and see how the writer speedily sets up a principal character early in the story. Take Clare Francis’ Red Crystal, written in 1985 and watch her rather other-worldly Victoria Danby endure an excruciating family dinner party. Wearing a scarlet bandeau and introduced by her mother as “our exotic daughter”, Danby feels crushed by dismissive small talk, suffers shafts of winking humour from a randy brigadier, then gets drunk and makes an idiotic speech. Sympathy, texture and humour all in a few tight lines.