Friday Firsts: The Immortals by S. E. Lister


Welcome to Friday Firsts – a new weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. New Book: First paragraphs. First impressions. New favourite?


| Friday Firsts: July 14 |

The Immortals

by S. E. Lister

Fantasy | 328 Pages | Published by Old Street Publishing in 2015


| First Paragraphs |

Rosa came home after seven years, in the same year she had left. It was the beginning of the wet spring she knew so well. She found their cottage on the edge of a village, the latest Hyde home in a string of many, tucked out of the way behind a disused cattle barn. There were sandbags stacked against the steps, blackout curtains in every window. Bindweed framed the doorway. Beyond the fields a church spire rose into the dusky sky, lashed by rain, its chimes silenced.

A glossy blackbird shook its wings in a tree above her head, its liquid song filling the evening air. Everything was green, fat raindrops sliding from oak leaves and splashing onto the newly sprouted daffodils on the side of the road. There was a bicycle leaning against a silver birch. The grass at her feet was thick with snails.

She knocked, and after a few moments the door clicked open. A fair-haired girl blinked up at her politely. Rosa stared at her sister, now ten years old and tall for it, and felt the whole breadth of her own absence.

Bella ducked halfway back into the hallway. She peered out from behind her hair, plainly confused as to why this ragged stranger was familiar. Rosa’s words, rehearsed across many miles and decades, caught in her throat. She had nothing to say.

“Who is it?”

Footsteps, and then Bella had been pulled aside, making way for an apron-clad woman with her hair in curlers. She had a tea-towel in one hand and a mug in the other. Her mouth grew small and tight. The mug began to shake, spilling a slick of coffee onto the floor.

“Come in. Hurry! Come in…” Her mother’s hands did not touch her, but beckoned urgently. The door was pulled closed. In the hallway Rosa looked at Harriet Hyde, who had grown thinner, her face lined and her fiery hair dulled with grey. The softness around her edges had been replaced by a strained, brittle look. She bent to dab at the stain on the floor, shooing Rosa away when she tried to help. Bella clung to her apron.

“Did you walk through the village dressed like that?” Harriet asked at last, straightening up. Rosa nodded. “Were you seen by anyone?”

“I don’t think so. It’s dark, mother.”

“Yes, yes, I know. But busybodies at their windows…” Harriet’s eyes were bulging.

“Nobody looks out of their window at this hour.” Rosa lowered the pack from her shoulders. She peeled off her raincoat, and untied the scarf from around her hair.

“You might at least have changed your clothes.”

Rosa felt her jaw clench. “That wouldn’t have been easy.”

The whitewashed hallway was lit by a single bulb, umbrellas stacked beside the door, shoes in a neat line. No pictures on the walls, no peg for visitors’ coats. She had forgotten that they always had this feel, the Hyde homes, this stale, unloved impermanence. The carpets were worn only by other peoples’ footsteps, the pencil-scratches by the door marking the heights of other peoples’ children. Occupants long-gone, each place a borrowed shell.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

Having heard little about this book or its author prior to opening it up – indeed I hadn’t even read the synopsis! – I dived in head first with no expectations. From the opening sentences this book gripped with its beautiful style and somewhat melancholy air and, with little to go on but the writing itself, I fully expect this to be an enchanting if somewhat haunting tale which I am already eager to continue.

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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