Extract; Goose Road by Rowena House (And a Giveaway!)
8 April, 2018
Extract; Goose Road by Rowena House (And a Giveaway!)
Today is my stop on the Goose Road blog tour! Below I have an extract for you all. But before you read, you can also get two previous extracts here and here – just in case you want a little more context!
Plus, keep scrolling for your chance to win a copy of the book!
Extract – Chapter Two
Next morning I’m up with the larks, whistling a tune as I strip the sheet from Pascal’s bed.
Dust erupts from his mattress and his pillow smells fusty and stale. I throw open his shutters and the dewy dawn floods in.
Downstairs two wooden pails stand in the middle of the kitchen floor. I look around in surprise. They’re the pails Mother takes to market.
“Maman? You’re not going to Monville today, are you? Wouldn’t you rather rest?”
“I can weep for your father on my feet as well as in a chair,” she says, emerging from the pantry, her arms laden with pats of butter wrapped in fresh green leaves.
I smile at her, not wanting to argue again. “Shall I come with you? We could go shopping afterwards. You know, buy something nice.”
“Buy something nice?”
Her voice seems to crack. She shuts her eyes tightly. I drop the sheet and run to her, taking her hands in mine. Her skin feels like worn-out leather. Sobs shake her body.
“I’m so sorry,” I say, pressing her hand to my face. “I didn’t mean to upset you. And I’m sorry about yesterday too. I know I should be sad.”
She shakes her head. “We can’t mend the past, Angélique, only forgive it.”
I nod solemnly – even though I know in my heart I’ll never, ever forgive Father. Kissing her hand, I say, “We’ll be all right. Pascal will be home any day now.”
She opens her eyes and sighs. “Fetch me the palanche, would you? I’m late.”
The palanche. How I hate that thing. It stands in a corner of the yard, a yoke of solid wood with a hook at each end for her pails. She says it balances the load, but I think it makes her look like an ox in harness or a shackled slave.
She shudders when I bring it into the kitchen and shuts her eyes again as I lift it over her shoulders.
The butter pail is heavy. I have to brace to pick it up. She sucks air through her teeth as the weight of it bears down.
At least the pail of eggs is lighter. Mother has made a nest for them out of clean, golden straw. But as I pick it up, something catches my eye. I peer inside, then put the pail down again and part the straw with my fingers.
I look up at Mother, amazed.
I look down again, just to make sure, but there’s no doubt about it – they’re twice the size of the hens’ eggs.
“Maman? Why have you taken Pascal’s goose eggs?”
A shadow crosses her face. She glances at the door. I stand up and reach for her arm, more puzzled than cross. She knows Pascal told me to hatch them. We’ve talked about it often enough.
“Not now, Angélique. I haven’t got time.”
She brushes my hand away. I just stand there staring as she adds, “Put the bucket on the hook, would you, or do I have to do it myself?”
“But … Maman, we’re not meant to sell them, you know that.”
She rubs a hand across her face, then takes a deep breath and bends at the knee, stretching out for the pail. My foot is in her way. I decide not to move it.
I stand my ground. This is for Pascal. He loves those geese. He told me to hatch every egg. With an aching heart, I watch her shuffle sideways. The unbalanced palanche makes her clumsy. I ought to help her, I know, but this is too important to let pass.
She looks up at the ceiling, her eyes wet. I’m sure she doesn’t want to take them, really. So why is she?
“Maman, what’s going on? Please tell me.”
She squats down, breathing heavily, and pulls the pail of eggs towards her, then hooks it awkwardly onto the end of the palanche. Slowly she stands, the strain clear from the set of her jaw.
“So what are we going to tell Pascal?” I ask. “That the geese aren’t laying? He’ll never believe it.”
“Open the door, Angélique, then the gate.”
“It’s not like the hens aren’t laying well. I’ll go out right now, if you like, and find loads of eggs! The hens always hide them.”
“The door,” she repeats, “and the gate.” “But Pascal said—” “I know what he said! But he’s not here, is he? And I’ve got enough mouths to feed!” I step back, my heart racing. She hardly ever loses her temper, but now her face is twisted and there’s spit on her lips from shouting.
“Stop it! This instant! And get out of my way!”
At last I step aside, my eyes burning with tears. Her words felt like punches. Turning around, I fling open the door and run into the yard.
Out of the shade of the house the sun blazes down.
About the Book
France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. “I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won’t change either.” But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears… In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother’s flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.
About the Author
Rowena studied journalism at LSE and spent several years on Fleet Street, reporting for various news agencies. She has lived and worked in France, Africa and Belgium as a Reuter’s foreign correspondent and covered the fall of Addis Ababa at the end of Ethiopia’s 30-year civil war. She now lives in Devon and works as a freelance journalist. In 2013, Rowena won a competition run by Andersen Press, which published her winning entry, “The Marshalling of Angélique’s Geese” in War Girls, a collection of short stories about WWI as seen through the eyes of young women. The Goose Road is her novelization of that story.