Saturday, 12 March 2016

Thoughts, please

If anyone reading this post has the time, please would you let me have your thoughts? This is the opening chapter of a novel I'm writing, and have almost finished. Would you want to read on, or would you  just leave it? Honest anwers. please! And if you do reply, thank  you.


                                         PROLOGUE
 
                                          JULY 1965

HOLIDAY TRAGEDY


A family was struck by tragedy when their young son drowned while on holiday. Two-year-old Caspar Lewis fell into a lake in full view of his ten-year-old sister, Isabel. He was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival. Local police said that the death appeared to be a tragic accident. Last night, his parents, Michael and Barbara, were being comforted by relatives.

               It had been so easy to drown Caspar.

She hadn't planned it, for she could never have known that her parents would leave her to “keep an eye on him” for a few minutes. And in any case, drowning wouldn’t have been her preferred method of disposing of her little brother. She had dreamed of strangling him, of placing a pillow over his sleeping face and sitting on it, of perhaps pushing him down the stairs. But drowning had never occurred to her. In any case, until now, she had never really intended to put any of her ideas into practice.

But then suddenly, there it was. The perfect opportunity. She and Caspar, alone on the jetty, watching the boats

'Look, Casp! Look! Fish!”

And he had leaned over, squatting in his pale blue dungarees, his bobbing blond curls (oh, how she had hated those curls!) reflected in the pale surface of the lake.

Such a little push; such a small splash. And he was gone. There was no fuss, no scream, no bobbing back to the surface, no sign of any struggle (afterwards, they had said that his body had become caught in reeds); just a single starfish hand, raised as though in valediction before disappearing altogether in the murky depths of the lake. Caspar's small, perfect life had ended in a small, perfect death. Neat. Unobtrusive. Almost apologetic.

She had waited a few minutes, just to be sure, and then she had run screaming back up the bank.

'Quick! Come quick! Caspar's fallen in the lake!'

It was as simple as that.

Her parents had blamed themselves . They shouldn't have left the two of them together; it hadn't been fair. She was too young to be responsible for so young a child. What could they have been thinking of! Poor Isabel. Poor little Bel. She would carry that terrible memory with her for the rest of her life. They must be strong. They must keep going. For Isabel.

After a while, it was easy to imagine that it really had been an accident; that it had had nothing to do with her at all. Caspar had stumbled and fallen; it had been nobody’s fault. And her guilt had sunk, like Caspar's tiny body, and been submerged in the soothing waters of the myth which had been woven around it.

Why had she hated him so much? She had begged and pleaded for a baby brother or sister, perhaps safe in the certainty that none would be forthcoming, but when he had finally arrived, she had been overwhelmed with jealousy. She grew to hate her perfect little brother with his perfect manners, his blue eyes, his seraphic smile, and those blond curls, Wherever they went, Caspar had turned heads and attracted compliments. He was a clever, child, too. He knew all his colours and could count up to fifty, while in those days, Isabel had struggled at school. He even had more names than she did. Caspar Llewellyn St.John Lewis. That was a name that was going places. Whereas she, plain Isabel Mary, wasn't going anywhere.

Once, she had asked why Caspar had been blessed with all those names, and been told that her mother had “had everything taken away” after his birth, and there would be no more babies. So it seemed that all the names that might have been given to future brothers had been lavished upon Caspar, so that none should be wasted. She had never asked about girls' names. She couldn’t imagine that her parents would ever have wanted another girl.

And so the memory of that afternoon had become clouded, and had finally disappeared. If she thought of it at all (and she tried not to), she had a vague recollection of Caspar running off, of herself shouting after him, getting to the jetty too late to save him. In her own mind, she became as much of a victim as Caspar himself; the older sister who had been the luckless witness, unable to reach her little brother in time. The coroner's verdict had been “accidental death”, so that was what it had been. A tragic accident. It had had nothing to do with Isabel at all.

She wasn't to know that one day - one far-off day - she would be tempted to kill again.






26 comments:

  1. I would want to read on Frances.
    Kind regards
    Anna :o]

    ReplyDelete
  2. My first thought was of The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. This lacks the black humour and improbability of flying someone over the sea attached to a kite so I read this again.
    Not the same at all. I will read on as soon as I'm given the words. Good luck. When you sell the film rights could you stipulate that Uma Thurman gets a major part please.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Frances, I am already hooked! Please write on... and fast!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, that has hooked me. I would definitely read on

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm always put off by prologues (I don't know why - just one of those things). I wasn't gripped by the first paragraph, but love the rest and would read on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may be right, Patsy. Thanks for the feedback.

      Delete
  6. I agree with Patsy, didn't like the first paragraph which I assume is meant to be a newspaper report. I think it is unnecessary, 'It had been easy so to drown Caspar' is a much more gripping opening line. Yes, really like it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martine, you really made me think again. Thanks for the very helpful comment.

      Delete
  7. I agree with Martine...and the first mention of her hating his curls seemed so predictable...but yes I'd read on.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Agree with Patsy. I don't have a problem with prologues - some of the best novels have them - but didn't think that first paragraph was necessary. The rest of it definitely made me want to read on (and so excited you're writing a new novel to add to my collection!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Wendy. I think the prologue will have to go! In fact, this novel is nearly finished. I'm just a bit stuck on the ending....

      Delete
  9. Have to agree about starting with the first line rather than the news item but wow - I'd definitely read on. Such a great main character voice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rosemary. I'm indebted to all who wanted to bin the prologue. It is duly binned!

      Delete
  10. Oh my goodness, Frances - hurry up and write the rest! I want to read on. I do agree with starting as Martine suggested xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Teresa. You've helped sound the death knell for the prologue! And as for the rest, well, I'm about 84,000 words in, so at last the end is in sight. Phew.

      Delete
    2. France's, I'm trying to send you my comment from my iPhone, and so far I have had two unsuccessful attempts. This is my third and final try.

      I agree with the others about deleting the newspaper article prologue, or possibly you could move it somewhere else in the middle of your book as a short chapter by itself. I say that because I think this whole chapter, starting with "It had been so easy to drown Caspar" and ending with "It had had nothing at all to do with Isabel" (that is, minus your final sentence) might make a great final chapter or epilogue. It reminded me of Tony Perkins's line at the end of the Psycho film, "I wouldn't even harm a fly."

      Delete
    3. Thank you for all (3) of your efforts! Helpful comments. However, I can't put that at the end because by then she will have bumped off rather a lot of people. I'm trying to finish off the final victims now. Wish me luck!

      Delete
  11. I would definitely want to read the book. I also agree that binning the prologue is the right thing to do, though I wouldn't have thought of that on my own. I am not very good at discussing books at book club, I just know if I have enjoyed it or not!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Frances, our book club has a brilliant formula. Instead of a set book, we just discuss the books we've been reading. No pressure, and it doesn't feel like homework!

      Delete
  12. "Nobody expected Ernest to die. Least of all Ernest." Words embedded permanently in my mind. "It had been so easy to drown Caspar." says so much. The first paragraph in your prologue will never grab anyone to the same extent (in my opinion). I have joined the majority (if rather late).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Graham (if rather late, too!).

      Delete