Ready to enjoy an amazing read this 2020? Take a look at this great book…
The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson
About The Book
One house, two women, a lifetime of secrets…
Following the death of her mother, Becky begins the sad task of sorting through her empty flat. Starting with the letters piling up on the doormat, she finds an envelope post-marked from Cornwall. In it is a letter that will change her life forever. A desperate plea from her mother’s elderly cousin, Olivia, to help save her beloved home. Becky arrives at Chynalls to find the beautiful old house crumbling into the ground, and Olivia stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her home is made habitable. Though daunted by the enormity of the task, Becky sets to work. But as she peels back the layers of paint, plaster and grime, she uncovers secrets buried for more than seventy years. Secrets from a time when Olivia was young, the Second World War was raging, and danger and romance lurked round every corner..
‘Where is Miss Kitto?’ I ask. Jem is muttering over the thick tangle of wires and with a sinking feeling I am sure I know the answer. There was no date on the letter. How long did it sit unopened at Mum’s flat? Weeks, or months?
With some cruel symmetry have they passed away within days of one another? Jem’s voice cuts in. ‘If you could go and open up the drawing room shutters I
could see what I’m doing.’
I guess at the first door on the left. The brass doorknob fills my hand, and the catch yields with a creak. As I walk into semi-darkness, a stench stings the back of my nose as sharply as mustard. And then I feel eyes on me, a distinctly primeval sensation. Is Cousin Olivia sitting in the darkness, watching me? Or does her shade occupy one of the hulking easy chairs, a malevolent ghost bent on scaring the shit out of anyone who dares to cross the threshold? The thought is so eerie I run towards the window.
As soon as I set my hand on the shutter-bar the air in the room stirs and an unseen entity whooshes past my head.
Something brushes my face and I yelp. Hauling the shutters open to flood the room with light, I turn to face the demon… which is regarding me balefully out of a cold, white-ringed eye from the top of the standard lamp.
It is a parrot. A grey parrot with a hooked beak and a neat fan of crimson tail-feathers and I am cast back to that long-ago Cornish holiday–a big, sunny sitting
room where Mum and I sat side by side on a lumpy chintz sofa eating spicy yellow bread studded with dried fruit and spread thick with butter while from the top of a bookcase a large grey bird scrutinized our every move. I had looked away, unnerved, and in that moment it had descended on outstretched wings, dug its scaly grey claws into my saffron cake, and with a loud clatter of feathers retreated to the shelves to consume its booty. Surely it can’t be the same bird? How long do parrots live?
‘That will teach you to pay attention!’ Olivia had laughed. ‘What Gabriel wants Gabriel takes.’ Turning to him she said, ‘What will our guests think? I don’t know why we named you for an angel: you are the very devil!’
‘Shut the fuck up!’ the creature retorted.
Mum had gasped and I had clapped my hands to my mouth as if it had been me, not the bird, who had uttered these forbidden words. But the old woman was laughing, and the parrot hopping from foot to foot, hugely pleased with itself, and I suddenly burst out in such giggles that even Mum had smiled.
How could I have forgotten such a bizarre incident?
The room looks smaller now, and infinitely shabbier. The chintz roses are faded to ambiguity and all the surfaces are covered in dust and guano.
Jem shows his face at the door. ‘I see you found Gabriel,’ he says and at the sight of him Gabriel lets out a banshee caw followed by, ‘Messy moose key.’ Jem grimaces. ‘You’d think it were human sometimes.’ He wags his finger at the bird.
‘Picked the lock again, did you, you old bugger? Bleddy thing ought to have its neck wrung.’ He looks at me sharply. ‘Pardon my French. Don’t suppose you’ll want to stay: lots of diseases you can get from parrots, they say.
About The Author
Jane Johnson is a British novelist and publisher. She is the UK editor for George R.R.Martin, Robin Hobb and Dean Koontz and was for many years publisher of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Married to a Berber chef she met while researchingThe Tenth Gift,she lives in Cornwall and Morocco.