Our #WeekendRead is a short excerpt from Fiona Melrose’s exquisitely written Midwinter. Set between two worlds and told from the alternating perspectives of Vale Midwinter and his father Landyn, the book recounts two seminal episodes of their lives: the period on their farm in the county of Suffolk, England, after a boat accident involving Vale and his friend Tom, and the time when Vale’s mother was brutally murdered while the family lived and farmed in Kabwe, Zambia, ten years earlier.
“The dark had voices. It was early still. Dogs, hyenas, the whole night was alive with teeth, sharp and hungry.
I was finished, tired and terrified. Then like a funny little angel, Vale appeared around the door, his bare feet on the grass mats, pyjama buttons done up skew.
I couldn’t speak for choking. I knew my face was wet and eyes red, for all the things I’d told him about being brave I was done for. He looked at me in his serious little way. Always so serious. Then, the fellow walked in and climbed up on his Ma’s side of bed, walking over to me on his knees and just settled in. He pulled my tired old arm out of the covers and over him, his back to me, perhaps out of respect, so as not to expose any more of my tears.
‘I’m feeling sad too, Pa.’
There we lay until sleep came, lamp on and the sound of all the moths and beetles tapping their heads against the mosquito mesh that was fixed across all the windows, all getting bruised and broken, just trying to get to the light.
When a tree full of starlings woke us to a new day, I knew that surviving was the only choice open to me.”
Fiona Melrose was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. After living in Johannesburg and London for many years and exploring careers in academia and other research, she moved to Suffolk to write and complete an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. Her first novel, Midwinter, (Corsair/ Little, Brown, 2016) is set in Suffolk. .
Fiona recently returned to Johannesburg, the setting for second novel, (working title: A Discourse on Love) a circadian narrative, based on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and set on the day Nelson Mandela died.