Women and Love by Miriam Burke #BlogTour #Extract #WomenAndLove #MiriamBurke @renardpress #onceuponatimebookreviews

Today I am taking part in the blog tour and sharing an extract from Miriam Burke’s Women and Love. This is released on the 23rd of February, published by Renard Press Ltd.

Book Description

‘I couldn’t sleep that night; our conversation was like a trapped bird flying around inside my head. The next morning, I texted to say I wouldn’t be coming back. I lied about having to return to my country to nurse a sick relative. I couldn’t bear to see my story mirrored in his eyes, and to see what we never had. I knew he’d understand.’ 

Women and Love is a thought-provoking collection of seventeen tightly woven tales about the power of love, all its trials and complications, and the shattered lives it can leave in its wake. 

The stories explore a huge variety of sorts of love surrounding women in wildly differing settings, and features an unforgettable cast including GPs, burglars, inmates, emigrant cleaners, carers, young professionals, and many more.

Navigating heavy themes, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ experiences, including gender dysphoria and searching for a sperm donor, the stories leave the reader burning with indignation, full of empathy and wonder.

Extract

THE LUCK OF LOVE

My mind pulls on any rope that ties it, so I like my job because my mind is free. My clients speak slowly, using simple words, when they talk to me. I’m an emigrant with a PhD in English Literature, but I let them think I’m uneducated and a little stupid.

The Hewitts live in North London, in a big old house with high ceilings, long windows and a garden that has been photographed for a magazine. The carved oak dining-room table came from the refectory of a French monastery and the teak four-poster bed was made in Goa. Mrs Hewitt bid for her furniture at auctions, one piece at a time, and had the damaged pieces restored. She went to artists’ studios with plastic bags full of cash to haggle about the price of the abstract expressionist paintings that cover her walls. Mrs Hewitt loves the house, and everything in it, except her husband. They bought the house when it was a warren of bedsits – she showed me the photos – and she made it beautiful. The house is her life’s work. Everything in her home looks like it cost much more than she paid for it, with the exception of her husband.

Mrs Hewitt worked as a solicitor, helping people buy and sell their homes, which must be a terrible job – boring legal work combined with having to deal with people at their maddest. She got out as soon as she had finished renovating and furnishing the house. Mr Hewitt is a director of a management consultancy firm.

Georgina, their daughter, is thirty years old and lives in her bedroom. She wears a lavender one-piece suit with a fur-trimmed hood, and she has the face of a child on the body of a woman. When Georgina was bullied at school, her parents employed tutors to educate her at home. It is many years since she has felt the sun on her skin. I looked at her search history when I was cleaningher room, and discovered she spends her days following female celebrities: the woman nobody knows spends her life learning about the lives of women everyone knows.

I was cleaning the kitchen cupboards last Monday morning when Mr Hewitt came into the room, dressed in a navy suit that fitted too well to be off the peg. His grey hair was as short as a newly mown lawn and his beard was carefully sculpted. His wife and daughter were sitting at the mosaic table drinking vegetable juice. I am very interested in couples, in how they survive without killing each other or themselves, so I watched and listened.

‘Will you be home for supper?’ asked Mrs Hewitt, without looking at him.

‘I’m not sure.’ He knew this would infuriate her.

Controlling her irritation, she said, ‘I just want to make sure I have enough fish.’

Georgina stared at her father with the loathing her mother was concealing.

‘It depends on whether I have to work late, and that depends on how often I’m interrupted. Can’t you buy enough fish for three and freeze some if I can’t make it?’

‘It’s never as good if you freeze it.’

‘Put my portion in the fridge and I’ll eat it when I get home if I’m late.’

‘You never eat when you come home late. The meal will be thrown out.’

‘Couldn’t you get some steak? That’ll keep.’

‘Georgina doesn’t eat meat any more, and I’m not going to cook two different meals.’

‘I’ll ring as soon as I know what’s happening.’ He didn’t want to give her the pleasure of anticipating his absence. ‘It would make life easier if you made a decision now.’

‘And your life is so hard.’

Mrs Hewitt got up from the table, turned her back on him and started loading the dishwasher. Georgina glared at him and rushed out of the room.

Mr Hewitt felt guilty because he loves his sullen hermit daughter.

‘I’ll ring before eleven to let you know.’
‘I don’t care what you fucking do.’
He walked out the kitchen door, stood at the bottom of

the stairs and shouted up: ‘Goodbye, Georgina.’ She didn’t reply.
‘Enjoy your day, Georgina.’
There was no answer.

‘We’re lesbians,’ said Margo, on the first day I met them. ‘If you can’t deal with that, we won’t employ you.’

Every family in my country has an aunt who lives with a special friend, or a cousin who shares his life with a man he met in the army or in a bar. We don’t attach words to it, but we accept them. The English seem to think they invented homosexuality.

‘I’m a composer,’ Margo said. She teaches piano to schoolchildren and she’s been working on an opera for ten years. The opera will never be completed. She wears her hair a little wild and she tilts her head so that she resembles a bust of Beethoven.

Jo is a carpenter and she makes sets for theatre companies. She has short blond hair that stands up on her head and her fine-boned, symmetrical face is a pleasure to look at. She is about twenty years younger than Margo.

They’ve knocked down the internal walls of their small terraced house in South London, and put windows in the roof, and Jo has made fitted furniture for all the rooms, so the house feels much bigger than it is. They can’t afford a cleaner, but they have me once a fortnight because Margo says she can’t take time out from her opera to do her share of the cleaning.

I was defrosting their fridge last Tuesday while they were having a goat’s cheese salad for lunch at the ash breakfast bar in the kitchen. Der Rosenkavalier was playing through their multi-room hi-fi system.

‘Who will we invite round this weekend?’ asked Jo.

‘Do we have to have people every weekend, darling?’ Margo stabbed a cherry tomato with her fork.

Renard Press
Waterstones
Bookshop.org
Blackwells

Women and Love Blog Tour

Follow the tour along the way for these bloggers thoughts on Women and Love.

My thanks to Will from Renard Press Ltd. for my spot on the blog tour and for the promotional materials.

Let’s Get to Know Miriam Burke

A writer from the west of Ireland, Miriam Burke’s short stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals, including The Manchester Review, Litro Magazine, Fairlight Shorts, The Honest Ulsterman, Bookanista and Writers’ Forum.

She has a PhD in Psychology, and before becoming a writer she worked for many years as a Clinical Psychologist in London hospitals and GP practices. Women and Love is her debut collection.

Author reading on YouTube
Author’s website

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