American Historical Novelist
American Historical Novelist
He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.
I have spent my life waiting for something to happen,? she said. ?And I have come to understand that nothing will. Or it already has, and I blinked during that moment and it's gone. I don't know which is worse ? to have missed it or to know there is nothing to miss.?
It was not a house where secrets could be kept easily.
There followed a time when everything was dull. The things that had meant something lost importance, though they were still there, like bruises on the body that fade to hard lumps under the skin.
Younger women tend to be busier, wearing more layers and more make-up. I don't know if it's because older women are more confident, or just that we don't care any more. But that pared-down approach is the same with the sentences I write; I take out adjectives and adverbs and keep the description to a minimum.
He spoke her name as though he held cinnamon in his mouth.
I heard voices outside our front door - a woman's, bright as polished brass, and a man's, low and dark like the wood of the table I was working on. They were the kind of voices we heard rarely in our house. I could hear rich carpets in their voices, books and pearls and fur.
It's a rare book that wins the battle against drooping eyelids.
There is a difference between Catholic and Protestant attitudes to painting, he explained as he worked, but it is not necessarily as great as you may think. Paintings may serve a spiritual purpose for Catholics, but remember too that Protestants see God everywhere, in everything. By painting everyday things-tables and chairs, bowls and pitchers, soldiers and maids-are they not celebrating God's creation as well?
You're so calm and quiet, you never say. But there are things inside you. I see them sometimes, hiding in your eyes.
He was a collector rather than a hunter, buying his knowledge rather than seeking it with his own eyes and hands. I
I knew I should believe him, as he taught at Oxford, but his answers did not feel complete. It was like having a meal and not getting quite enough to eat.
Jane Austen easily used half a page describing someone else's eyes; she would not appreciate summarizing her reading tastes in ten titles.
There is no need to fear, he said, for you are here with me.
I could not think of anything but his fingers on my neck, his thumb on my lips.
I knew that he would go out to the tavern, returning with eyes like glittering spoons.
Life itself was far messier and didn?t end so tidily with the heroine making the right match.
There was something different about her, though I could not say exactly what it was. It was as if she were more certain. If someone were sketching her they would use clear, strong lines, whereas before they might have used faint marks and more shading. She was like a fossil that?s been cleaned and set so everyone can see what it is.
I did not mind the cold so much when he was there.
I leaned against the warm brick wall and gazed up. It was a bright, cloudless day, the sky a mocking blue. It was the kind of day when children ran up and down the streets and shouted, when couples walked out through the town gates, past the windmills and along the canals, when old women sat in the sun and closed their eyes. My father was probably sitting on the bench in front of the house, his face turned towards the warmth. Tomorrow night might be bitterly cold, but today it was spring.
Margaret grasped on to the magic of novels because they held out hope that Mary?and she herself?might yet have a chance at marriage. While my own experience of life was limited, I knew such a thing would not happen. It hurt, but the truth often does.
They were a mother's words, words I would say to my own daughter if I were concerned for her
I did not sleep well that night. I was not used to having the power to affect someone?s life so and did not easily carry its weight, as a man might have done.
I liked sleeping in the attic. There was no Crucifixion scene hanging at the foot of the bed to trouble me. There were no paintings at all, but the clean scent of linseed oil and the musk of the earth pigments. I liked my view of the New Church, and the quiet. No one came up except him. The girls did not visit me as they sometimes had in the cellar, or secretly search through my things. i felt alone there, perched high above the noisy household, able to see it from a distance.
Married women that I noticed, their solid smugness at not having to worry about the course of their future. Married women were set like jelly in a mold, whereas spinsters like me were formless and unpredictable. I patted my basket. I have my own fossils,