Today I am delighted to be taking my turn on the Urbane Extravaganza where, between 24 November and 31 December, a host of bloggers will be showcasing a different Urbane publication each day. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group tours for asking me to take part in this great celebration.
I have drawn The Kindness of Strangers bu Julie Newman, so let’s take a look at the book and the extract that I have kindly been invited to publish for you.
Widow Helen is desperate for a perfect family life, and will do everything she can to get what she wants.
A veteran of the Afghanistan conflict Martin is adrift and seemingly without hope – can he ever win back his estranged family?
Pregnant teenager Charley is striking out on her own to create a new life for her unborn child, but her mother Lizzie has other ideas.
When three seemingly disparate lives connect, the past and the present collide to reveal secrets, lies and how far people are willing to go to hide the truth.
Following the gripping and controversial Beware the Cuckoo, Julie Newman’s thrilling new novel lifts the lid on the dark past that haunts a seemingly happy household.
I just love the cover of this book, don’t you? Here is the extract, as promised, to whet your appetite.
“HelenA SLIVER OF SUNLIGHT forces its way through the tiny gap between the blind and the window frame; it’s enough to tell me that night has given way to day.I stretch and realise I’m precariously close to the edge of the bed. I roll over and move towards the centre of the bed reaching out with my arm, searching for him, for his touch and his warmth. The coldness stills me. I allow my eyes to focus properly, and the outline of his pillow greets me. It is smooth and free of indentation suggesting no head has lain upon it. I sit up and stare at the space where he should be, wondering where he is and worrying that he is okay. Then it descends, the gloom and the anguish, for now I remember…OneI DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START. I’ve never felt so daunted by a task, ever. Which is quite ridiculous as it is a relatively simple task, not one that requires any particular skill; and yet it challenges me. I’ve brokered million-pound deals, chaired more meetings than I care to remember and managed teams of people. Yet I can’t seem to do this one simple thing.As I stand in the doorway of his dressing room I am immobilised; I feel like I’m standing on the high board at a swimming pool, not only afraid to jump but unsure if I can swim when I hit the water. And I feel like a trespasser. This was his space, as my dressing room was mine; is mine, for I’m still here. Not that we weren’t allowed into one another’s rooms, of course we were, but rarely was there a need. Yes, I know, his and her dressing rooms sounds rather grand and over-indulgent, but to be honest it suited our lifestyle. It was a necessary convenience. A convenience that allowed us to have our own space and time, either to get ready for whatever the day held or to unwind at the end of the day. There were many occasions when one of us had a function to attend or a late night at the office. I recall reading somewhere that it’s quite common for couples to argue before going out as they often get in each other’s way while getting ready – and let’s be honest, men can leave bathrooms in a complete state of disarray. Therefore these additional rooms probably prevented many cross words or heated exchanges. Robert’s mother couldn’t understand why we didn’t just use one of the guest rooms if either of us were late home. She thought the dressing rooms an unnecessary extravagance; but then she thought that of most things we had or did, unless it involved her of course. She was happy enough to accompany us on luxury holidays, and she didn’t refuse when we paid for her new kitchen. What she didn’t understand was that despite having these rooms we still liked to spend the night together; we rarely spent a night apart. There was the odd overseas business trip, but whenever possible we would accompany each other on those trips. In fact, I can count on one hand the nights we’ve spent apart. Well I could, before …We bought this house over twenty-five years ago. It was a house we would often drive past and admire, both saying we’d like to have something similar one day; although at the time that notion was just fanciful daydreaming. Over time the house began to look a little shabby and uncared for, eventually becoming rundown and derelict. Such a shame we thought; we hoped someone would come along with time and money to restore it to its former glory. Never daring to think it might be us who would take on that mantle.It was 1992 and we were in a taxi on our way home, following a very boozy evening. We’d been out celebrating Robert’s bonus – which was unexpected and an extraordinary amount – when we passed this house. There was a sign outside saying it was for sale at auction. Robert got the taxi driver to stop and we both got out of the car.What do you reckon?” Robert asked. I looked at him and shrugged, thinking he was asking me how much I thought it was worth. “It might need work, but with my bonus, well I think we could do it.“Do what?” I asked a little densely, for I was feeling the effects of my alcohol intake in the cold night air.“Buy it.”“Really?”“Yes, really. We’ve always loved this house and as you keep telling me, we have outgrown the flat.”“That’s true, but I’m not s–”“Meter’s running pal and I do have another job to get to,” interrupted the taxi driver.We got back into the car and headed home, but I could tell Robert wanted this. It wasn’t just an alcohol fuelled fantasy, this was a long-held dream that now seemed attainable. For him, it felt like the stars had aligned and it was the right thing to do. He was convinced it was what his bonus was meant for. So we bought it. It was two years before we moved in though, two long years. It needed a lot of attention: wiring, plumbing, structural reinforcement. And none of these things were cheap. We seemed to be writing endless cheques, and to me the house didn’t look any different from the day we first picked up the keys for it.“That’s because all these improvements are unseen,” said Robert, “but they’re essential. I know you just want to get on with the business of decorating and furnishing and you will, soon. Then you‘ll see the difference.” He was right, as he so often was.The house is magnificent, it oozes charm and character. It has a large entrance hall with a wonderful sweeping staircase in the centre. The original stairs were removed as they were rotten; I wanted the staircase to be a strong feature, make a statement, which it now does. Up the stairs and to the right are two guest bedrooms and a bathroom, and to the left is our bedroom and the dressing rooms. When we first moved in we didn’t have his and her dressing rooms. There were three bedrooms, one fair sized, one and two smaller ones; we knocked down walls and created a master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and just one dressing room, a dressing room that in time would become the nursery. Well, that was the plan, but as time went on we realised that it probably wasn’t the best use of the space. I think it was me who first suggested each of us having our own dressing rooms with bathrooms. I love a bath, laying in the water, relaxing, allowing the cares of the day to float free from you. And back then was no different, I liked nothing more than an uninterrupted soak. Increasingly I’d been using the bathroom across the landing. Self- indulgent, uninterrupted me time; time for solitude, during which to reflect and contemplate without Robert’s analytical input. He liked to talk, find a solution or reason for every problem or situation, but sometimes there is no reason. Sometimes things just are. So we had our own dressing rooms and very soon we forgot that the room was ever meant for anything else.I step across the threshold and into the room, still keeping hold of the door jamb, steadying myself. This feels wrong. I would never come in here without him being here, but I have to do this, it’s time. Tentatively I take another step. I decide to start with the wardrobe. I slide open the door; it’s very ordered, shirts together, trousers together, etc. and all arranged by colour. Many of his clothes are still draped in the plastic covers that the dry-cleaners put on. I begin with the shirts and they are as good as new; all sharply ironed and neatly hanging in regimented rows. It seems a shame to remove them from the hangers, so I don’t. I lay them on the bed as I sort through them. It seems he liked blue, almost all of his shirts are blue: blue stripes, blue checks, plain blue.I hadn’t noticed this before. If anyone had ever asked me what colour he likes to wear I would have said … actually what would I have said? I don’t know, I don’t know what he liked anymore. Why don’t I know? Did I ever know? Clearly it was blue as that is the over-whelming colour of his wardrobe, but I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think blue was his favourite colour at all. As I struggle to recall this one thing which I feel I should know, my eyes moisten. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I coped just fine with the legalities and financial issues that had to be dealt with, but this is different. It could be because these are his personal things, maybe that’s the difference; clothes he wore, books he read, music he played, the things he touched and that touched him. I have to do this. If I can just sort out his clothes today; that would be something. I dab my eyes with a tissue and continue removing things from his wardrobe. When it’s empty I look at the mountain of clothes on the bed. Nothing has made the throwaway pile, it’s all too good, but as I have no-one to give them to I’ll take it all to the charity shop – tomorrow, I’ll do that tomorrow.”
If you have enjoyed this extract from The Kindness of Strangers and would like to read the rest of the book, you can buy a copy here.
About the Author
Julie was born in East London but now lives a rural life in North Essex. She is married with two children. Her working life has seen her have a variety of jobs, including running her own publishing company. She is the author of the children’s book Poppy and the Garden Monster.
Julie writes endlessly and when not writing she is reading. Other interests include theatre, music and running. Besides her family, the only thing she loves more than books is Bruce Springsteen…
Connect with Julie:
If you would like to check out the other posts in the Urbane Extravaganza, here are the tour stops:
24th Nov Chat About Books @chataboutbooks1
25th Nov Over The Rainbow Book Blog @JoannaLouisePar
26th Nov Being Anne @Williams13Anne
27th Nov On The Shelf Bookblog @OnTheShelfBooks
28th Nov Nicki’s Book Blog @nickijmurphy1
29th Nov My Reading Corner @karendennise
30th Nov Portable Magic @bantambookworm
1st Dec Black books blog @SimonJLeonard
2nd Dec Rae Reads @rae_reads1
3rd Dec So Many Books, So Little Time @smbslt
4th Dec Orchard Book Club @OrchardBookClub
5th Dec Zooloo’s Book Diary Zooloo2008
6th Dec Nemesis Book Blog @NemesisBlogs
7th Dec Katie’s Book Cave @katiejones88
8th Dec Books and Me @bookkaz
9th Dec Tangents and Tissues @tangentsbb
10th Dec Go Buy the Book @karen55555
11th Dec Cheekypee reads and reviews @cheekypee27
12th Dec Nicki`s Life Of Crime @NickiRichards7
13th Dec Emma the Little Bookworm @EmmaMitchellFPR
14th Dec Rather Too Fond of Books @hayleysbookblog
15th Dec Seansbookreviews @Seant1977
16th Dec Lizzums Lives Life @LizzumsBB
17th Dec The Magic Of Wor(l)ds @MagicOfWorldsBE
18th Dec On The Shelf Reviews @ljwrites85
19th Dec Grab This Book @grabthisbook
20th Dec Life Of A Nerdish Mum @NerdishMum
21st Dec The Quiet Geordie @thequietgeordie
22nd Dec eBook Addicts @ebookadditsuk
23rd Dec On The Shelf Reviews @ljwrites85
24th Dec Varietats @Sweeet83
25th Dec eBook Addicts @ebookadditsuk
26th Dec Portable Magic @bantambookworm
27th Dec Love Books Group @LoveBooksGroup
28th Dec A Little Book Problem @book_problem
29th Dec It’s all about the books @DeeCee334
30th Dec The Quiet Geordie @thequietgeordie
31st Dec Zooloo’s Book Diary @Zooloo2008