Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Overlook Press
Miranda Meadowe decides a lonely widowhood in her crumbling country house is not for her. Reviving a university dream, she invites five of her oldest friends to come and join her to live, and to stave off the prospect of old age. All have their own reasons for accepting. To begin with, the omens are good. They laugh, dance, drink and behave badly, as they cling to the heritage they thought was theirs for ever: power, health, stability. They are the baby boomers; the world is theirs to change. But as old attractions resurface alongside new tensions, they discover that the clock can’t be put back. When building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen, the outside world descends on their idyllic retreat, and the isolation of the group is breached. The past is revealed – and the future that beckons is very different from the one they imagined.
The last few days of October trickled away, the nights lengthening dramatically and the light even at midday seeming as grey and filmy as old cobwebs. Rooks noisily debated in the bare trees.
The police withdrew from the site, leaving a sea of mud. The archaeologists returned and sadly picked over what remained. Another handful of coins was uncovered, fused amongst the frag- ments of the earthenware jar that had once contained them, but the meagreness of this remaining hoard only emphasized the imag- ined lustre of what was missing.
Katherine was in her office in London when Chris called her. He was in London too, he told her, showing the torc and the shield to interested experts. They agreed to meet for dinner that evening in an Italian restaurant. She shielded the phone handset as they spoke, conscious of her colleagues at the adjacent desks, surprised to find herself making these furtive arrangements even though she had longed for his call.
She hurried home first, to the small flat in Bloomsbury she and Amos had bought as a pied-à-terre following the move to Mead. She stood for a long time looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, won- dering how a woman in the second half of her fifties prepared for an evening like this one. Her dating days had been short-lived, and were decades in the past. Her drawers and cupboards contained what now looked like expensive camouflage – clothes to conceal ripples and bulges, to present a modest face to the world, to hide within. Plenty of taupe and black. Nothing gaudy or flamboyant or, God forbid, sexy. For a moment she played with the idea of calling Miranda for advice. But she already knew what Miranda would say.
‘No, K, not a little black dress. Much too obvious.’
She opened her lingerie drawer, then catching on to the subtext of her own imagining she slammed it shut again with her cheeks burning. This was all racing ahead of her, too fast, too eagerly. She should call him now and cancel. Definitely. She looked for her mo- bile. Hesitating, with the phone in her hand, she thought a little harder.
It was unlikely that Chris would take very precise note of what she was wearing, given that he didn’t seem to worry too much about his own clothes (North Face). It was only a dinner, and no promises had been made. Underwear was not yet and might never be relevant, so the absence of Agent Provocateur was not a crucial factor.
Besides, whatever she wore it would not make her beautiful, or sexy. Clothes were just clothing. She felt sexy tonight, therefore she was. This last wanton thought made her smile, an unaccustomed slow beat of private amusement.
She put on scent, trousers, heels, a cashmere sweater. She was just doing up her coat (camel, MaxMara) when her phone rang. She reached for it. It would be him, of course. She hadn’t changed her mind; he had.
It was Sam, her elder son. He was the one who resembled her, whereas Toby took after Amos. She was close to both her boys, but they seemed lately to have floated off into a universe of work, peopled by friends she had never met, and subcultures and private languages that in no way touched on the family world.
‘Dad told me you’re down here. I thought you might like a drink or the cinema?’
‘I would have done. But I’m having dinner with a friend.’ ‘Where are you meeting her?’
An obvious assumption. Katherine thought quickly. She’d better not mention the restaurant in case Sam breezily suggested looking in on them. Her mind went blank of any other of a million possible venues.
She mumbled that they were meeting first at the British Museum (this coming to mind because Chris had told her it was where he would be this afternoon), and then they planned to find somewhere nearby.
‘Are you all right?’ Sam asked, after a pause. It had been one tiny lie, but delivered with massive ineptitude. She was no good at this, she realized.
‘Of course I am. Just in a hurry, darling. Shall I call you tomor- row?’ She was on her way. Katherine finished doing up her coat, walked out into the street and hailed a taxi. She felt that she might as well have been wearing a sign around her neck. A Woman on the Brink of Adultery.
Rosie Thomas is the author of Lovers and Newcomers, from which this text was excerpted. Copyright © 2010 by Rosie Thomas. Published in 2016 by The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers Inc. overlookpress.com. All rights reserved.
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About the Author
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Rosie Thomas was born and grew up in a small village in north Wales.
After winning a scholarship, she became a boarder at Howell’s School. The school had a strong tradition of music and games, but unfortunately Rosie had no aptitude for hockey and no enthusiasm for Gilbert and Sullivan choruses. She found the library instead … and read, and read. To feel an outsider and to be immersed in books was the ideal apprenticeship for a writer.
Rosie read English at St Hilda’s College Oxford, and for the first time in her life felt that she was in the right place at the right time. She still feels a debt to the remarkable women who taught her, and who encouraged her to think for herself.
After a few years of working in women’s magazines and for a publisher, and by now married to a literary agent, Rosie found herself at home with a new baby son and no job. To write a novel seemed the more promising of the options open to her.
Her first book was published in 1982, shortly after the birth of her daughter. She has been writing full time ever since, and that first novel has been followed by a score of others.
Rosie lives and writes in London, but she is also a keen traveller, mountaineer and skier. Among many adventures she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, trekked in Pakistan, Ladakh and Bhutan, followed the Silk Route through Asia, worked on a research station in Antarctica, sailed the Atlantic, explored in Chile, and competed in a classic car rally from Peking to Paris. Most recently she has sailed the southern ocean from Falklands to South Georgia and then crossed the island in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Rosie believes now that her travelling and writing are interdependent, and that one informs and enables the other.
All along the road there are stories, waiting to be told.
Among her other interests, Rosie has been a Trustee of the London Library and of the facial reconstruction charity Saving Faces. She has chaired the Betty Trask Prize.
Her work has twice been awarded the Romantic Novel the Year, and recently The Kashmir Shawl won the epic category of the prize.
She is currently at work on a new book.