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The Goose Road

I’m turning hay in the top meadow when I hear the squeak of rusty wheels and look up to see Monsieur Nicolas, the postman, pedalling up the lane. I stiffen, suddenly afraid that I know the reason why he’s here.

            Please, God, let it not be Pascal.

Soft summer sounds surround me now that I’m still. Grasshoppers. Distant birds. The eternal hum of bees. The creaking of the bicycle is like some infernal machine, let loose in the Garden of Eden.

            Please, God, not my brother, Pascal.

I think about that other August day two years ago, when the jangling of church bells shattered the peace of the valley. Pascal and I dropped our pitchforks and ran to the village square just in time to hear the mayor announce, “Men of France! To arms!”

Father left straightaway, but Pascal stayed long enough to show me how to gather the harvest, how to scythe and how to plough. I was twelve years old and so excited. Now my hands are calloused and my back aches like an old woman’s.

Monsieur Nicolas clatters slowly past the orchard, waking the geese. They flap and hiss as they waddle towards the fence. Mother appears at the kitchen door, wiping her hands on her apron. Her back is very straight.

Monsieur Nicolas clambers awkwardly off the saddle and pushes his bicycle up the hill towards our gate. I hold my breath. My legs shake. My vision blurs with tears.

            Please, God. Not Pascal.

Monsieur Nicolas stops again. He rests his bike against our fence. The geese clamour and shriek as he opens the gate to our yard. Stifling a cry, I pick up my skirts and run.

 

Toulouse geese
Toulouse geese

 

It’s Father, Mort pour la France on some distant battlefield. The letter telling us is crushed in Mother’s hand. I bow my head and make the sign of the cross, then ask, “Who’s the letter from? May I read it?”

She turns hollow eyes on me. “It’s from your brother, my angel.”

Pascal! Is he safe? Is he well? Oh, Maman, does he say when he’s coming home?”

Relief bubbles inside me. I’m torn between laughter and tears. But when I reach out for the letter, Mother’s knuckles whiten as she tightens her grip on it.

“Your father is dead, Angélique. Have you no feelings at all?”

I hang my head, the pain in her voice cutting through me. For her sake, I try to remember something nice about him. One small thing. But I can’t. All I recall are his fists and his belt and his leather razor strop. Pascal got the worst of it, but sometimes late at night I’d hear Mother whimpering as well.

“Well?” she asks, sounding weary now rather than angry.

My gaze remains fixed on the earthen floor and the dust-flecked shaft of sunlight falling across it, while the ticking of the kitchen clock grows louder between us.

Am I wicked, I wonder, a heartless, unforgivable child because I’m not sad he’s dead?

I try to squeeze out a tear, but inside my head I can hear the thwack, thwack, thwack of his drunken anger, and Pascal’s sobs as he rushed up to his room, and Mother’s muffled voice through his closed door, hushing him, telling him not to fuss.

“I am sorry,” I say at last.

“Are you?”

I give a tiny shrug. “For you, yes.”

She sighs, then turns her back on me and takes her apron off.

“See to the animals,” she says, “then come in to change. We’ll go to Mass this evening.”

 

My mourning dress is stiff and tight, a laced-up hand-me-down. Mother is almost invisible behind her long black veil. As we walk down the lane to the village through the warm, rosy dusk, I half expect a bat to blunder into her or a fox to stop and sniff the air as we pass.

Outside the church the village widows flock around Mother like crows. There are Madame Villiard and Madame Arnauld, and poor young Madame Besançon, whose husband was just nineteen when both his legs were blown off at Verdun.

Old Madame Malpas draws me aside, wringing her bony hands and crying, “What’s to become of you, Angélique? You’ll very likely starve! La Mordue will go to rack and ruin without Monsieur Lacroix!”

“Pascal will be home soon,” I say. “Maman and I can manage till then.”

“Manage, child? When your corn’s still in the ground in August?”

“The farm men have been promised leave.”

“And you expect the generals to keep their promises?”

She sniffs loudly, then stumps off, calling to Mother, “Madame Lacroix! What terrible news! Tell me, did he suffer?”

My best friend, Béatrice Lamy, hurries over to me.

“That woman!” she says, rolling her eyes. Then she kisses me on both cheeks and hugs me tightly. “This is unbearable, Angie. I can’t begin to imagine how you feel.”

Guilt prickles me because, just then, I’d been thinking how much I hate wearing black and having to pretend to be sad. I wish I’d told her the truth before, but Mother always said the beatings would get worse if Father suspected we talked about him behind his back.

And now it’s too late. I can’t speak ill of the dead, condemn a brave soldier Mort pour la France. What would Madame Malpas say?

“I’m fine, Bee,” I say. “Really, I am.”

She cups my cheek in her hand. “You’re so brave, Angie. I’d be in pieces if I’d lost Papa. How did you hear the news?”

I lean forward, hiding a smile, and whisper, “Pascal wrote.”

Pascal!

“Shhh, Bee. Not so loud.” I glance around, but the village women are too busy comforting Mother to take any notice of us. “Come on. Let’s talk inside.”

The cold stone church is empty. We sit in the front pew, the one allotted to the newly bereaved. Béatrice takes both my hands.

“Is Pascal safe?” she asks. “Is he hurt?”

“I don’t know. Mother wouldn’t let me see his letter.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, you know. She’s upset.”

“Of course. Silly question. I’m sorry.”

Her eyes brim again with sympathy.

Quickly I say, “Do you want to hear the good news?”

Good news?” Her eyes widen.

I smile conspiratorially. “The farm belongs to Pascal now – the house, the land. Everything! It’s his.”

“Oh.”

“Bee! Don’t you see what this means?”

She shakes her head.

“He can get married whenever he wants!”

“Oh!” Her eyes widen further. “But … Papa won’t let me. I’m too young.”

“Pascal will wait, I know he will. And when you’re both ready you’ll live with us, and we’ll be sisters, a real family. Won’t that be wonderful?”

Her eyes shine, then she blushes. “I do love him so much.”

We start to hug, but just then the door opens and the village widows seep inside like shadows, a horde of veiled and silent wraiths.

“I should go,” Béatrice says.

“No. Please stay.”

“But your mother– “

“She won’t mind.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

I slip my arm through hers while we wait, each looking up at the brightly painted statue of Saint Joan of Arc, high on her pedestal. She’s wearing a full suit of armour, and spearing the devil through his blackened heart.

“I hate that statue,” Béatrice whispers.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I rather like it.”

Buy The Goose Road here.

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UPDATE: The Goose Road launch articles & interviews

Today’s the last day of The Goose Road giveaways over on Twitter so I thought I’d pull together (one final time) all the links to the launch interviews and guest articles published in the past few weeks, in which I think I’ve said pretty much all that’s worth saying about writing the book.

There is one article outstanding: the acknowledgements, which are lengthy and will appear in due course, because I’d rather say something meaningful about the contribution of people I want to thank, rather than list names and gush generically about them, which won’t mean anything to anyone else.

Meanwhile, here’s what’s to be found online already:

Articles

Books as emotional stepping stones to World War One on ABBA

WW1 research and remembrance on The History Girls

Myths, mistakes and other inner debates about the title The Goose Road on JoshAndABook

Why is it still so hard to hear female voices from World War One?  SarahLikesBooks

Why I love (some) historical fiction. Ramblingmads

Tips on getting published.  TheBumblingBlogger

5 best bits about being a debut author – and the 5 worst on Michelle Toy’s Tales of Yesterday.

“Inspirations that led me along The Goose Road” is on a Tumblr account that inserts the entire thing directly onto WordPress (!) so I won’t post the link here. It’s locatable via Alex’s Fiction Addiction and is also pasted in full in this earlier blog.

Interviews with:

Kerry Drewery on  Author Allsorts

Louise Twist on  Books For Boys

Carly Chambers on fictionfascination.co.uk

Torchlight Anthology here.

Author interviews by me & lots more articles about the craft of creative writing, hazards of a writing life, the First World War and more can be found via the Practical Writing Tips search box on the Welcome page of this website.

 

Giveaway update

THANK YOU to everyone online who’s tweeted, liked, shared or reviewed The Goose Road over this launch fortnight. It means the world. Truly. Today is the last day for Faye Roger’s giveaway. Thank you so much to her, Jemima Osborne and Louise Twist for all their support: your competitions have been amazing successes in spreading the word. Good news, too: the marvellous Michelle Toy has FIVE copies to giveaway. Hurrah! Massive thanks to her and Walker Books for being so generous with these prizes. Here’s where you can find online competitions to win a free copy of the book:

Rhoda Keller here.

Alex Pattinson via http://alexsfictionaddiction.tumblr.com Details nestled at the base of my post about the inspirations behind The Goose Road

Faye Rogers retweet her giveaway tweet and follow her on @daydreamin_star

Alyce Hunt retweet her giveaway tweet and follow her on @everythingalyce

Emma Stickley details at the end of the fourth extract  here.

Michelle Toy follow @ChelleyToy & RT her (currently pinned) tweet about my final article in the blog tour: the 5 best bits about being a debut author – and the 5 worst!

Finally a huge THANK YOU to @TorchlightMAWYP for including The Goose Road in their giveaway bundle of stories from fellow alumna of Bath Spa University’s MA in writing for young people. I’m SO proud to be in such great company, and extremely impressed by the quality of your work in the Torchlight’s anthology. I hope your launch is a massive success as well, and leads to great things for you all.

 

 

Myths, mistakes & other inner debates about naming The Goose Road

Hello! Joining me on the blog today is Rowena House, and I think I’ll say no more and let Rowena take it away!

 


Journalist me: why did you chose The Goose Road as the title for your book?

Author me: I wrote the story under the working title of The Butterfly’s Wing, which is a metaphor I borrowed from the founder of modern chaos theory, Edward Lorenz, who once asked, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” in order to explore the mathematics of how microscopic disturbances in complex systems like the weather have immense knock-on effects.

In my original story, the actions of my protagonist, Angelique Lacroix, caused terrible, unintended consequences, but my editor at Walker felt that was too cruel to her as a character, and too shocking to the readers, so I let this element of the plot sink beneath the surface in later edits. That meant The Butterfly’s Wing didn’t work as a title anymore.

So your editor told you to change both the book and the title?

She asked me to change them, yes. But that’s one of the great things about working with an editor: they see things in your story that you don’t. They also understand their readership far better than a debut author. Also, I absolutely agreed with her that there’s no point whatsoever in having a title you have to explain to the reader. That defeats the whole point of a metaphor.

Where did The Goose Road come from, then?

I’d read a lot of First World War fiction and poetry while researching the background to the story. The Western Front in 1916 was a terrible place to be. The full weight of industrial-scale artillery shell production was crashing down on soldiers of both sides. So for the new title I went back to the soldier-poets for inspiration.

In 2014, the Imperial War Museums had published a wonderful collection called First World War Poems from the Front, edited by Paul O’Prey. I drew up a long list of possible titles from imagery in these poems.

Read the full article On Josh’s site via Myths, mistakes & other inner debates about naming The Goose Road

The Goose Road launch tour – Week 2

The Goose Road sets out on its second and final week touring bookish websites in a far, far better place than I could ever have imagined a week ago.

At the time of writing, it’s holding Amazon’s No1 Bestseller slot for European historical YA fiction, having jumped there on Saturday – just two full days into publication – and pretty much held there, with one or two wobbles, ever since. Fan. Tas. Tic.

The Goose Road is also the proud possessor of that rarest of beasts for a debut: a review in a national daily newspaper.

The Telegraph called it “a gem” amid the many First World War titles being released in time for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the 1914-18 Great War.

Reviewer Emily Bearn left me speechless – for an hour at least.

Seriously, though. I’m immensely proud to have produced a work of fiction, on a subject I think is terribly important, which is being well received by adult, teen and young reviewers alike.

For the views of young readers, do have a look at this from Love Reading 4 Kids’ featured books of the month. Hurrah!

To crown this wonderful first week, Michelle Toy announced The Goose Road would also be her Debut of the Month for the British Book Challenge she runs on her respected book site, Tales from Yesterday, which is a particular accolade in the hotly-contested month of April.

So…

Week 2

This is what’s in store:

  • More giveaways. We’ve got five going at the moment. See the Week 1 post for a full list of links
  • An article about The Goose Road and why I chose it as a title
  • Two author interviews
  • More guest blogs.

I’ll update this post with links as and when they go live.

Meanwhile, enjoy London Book Fair week, and Happy Reading!

 

PS Here – finally – is that picture I’ve been blathering about for days. That me and Jane, owner of our local independent Habour Bookshop, celebrating the arrival of The Goose Road on her shelves.

Jane & I first met at our children’s school’s Christmas fair, staffing the second-hand book stall. So for all I’m shouting about Amazon, please, please support your local bookshop!

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The Goose Road launch tour – Week 1!

Wow! What a week. Publication day came and went amid a blizzard of Tweets and Likes and Shares, and fish & chips with friends, flowers from my fab agent, and a great sense of something big reaching completion. But then…

The weekend arrived and things really took off. The Goose Road hit AMAZON’S NO.1 BESTSELLER slot in its main marketplace (it’s still holding on in there at the time of writing. Ye-ha!) Then I learnt The Telegraph newspaper was running a wonderful review in their Saturday edition. A rare and special thing.

And the reviews kept coming, and at last I started to feel the love that I’d poured into Angelique and her life returning from readers. That’s an amazing feeling.

I also saw my book in real life at our wonderful local indie bookshop, The Harbour Bookshop, in Kingsbridge, Devon. I’ll manage to upload the picture of owner Jane and me grinning like idiots one day. Meanwhile it’s on my Instagram feed.

As there’s been so much going on in the first week of the launch tour – with lots more to come in the second – I’m updating this post regularly to keep track of what’s where online, including the FIVE giveaways of free copies of The Goose Road which are currently running.

This is where we are on Monday, April 9th.

Day One

Jemima Osborne published the opening extract, her generous review and the first giveaway competition on her blog drinkingbooks.wordpress.com. That giveaway runs until April 10th. Find it here.

Day Two

Sarah Barnard also reviewed The Goose Road and ran my first tour article, asking why girls’ voices are still so hard to hear from World War One. This is her website sarahlikesbooks.wordpress.com and the launch blog is here

Day Three

Madeline Fenner hosted the tour on the eve of publication, with an article about why I love historical fiction both as a reader and a writer.

Here it is.

Day Four: Publication Day!

Rhoda Keller kindly published the second extract alongside her lovely review and the next giveaway, UK only, running until April 12th on http://www.strupag.com/

My big Book Birthday interview with fab fellow author Kerry Drewery (of Cell7 fame) came out the same day on Author Allsorts here

Day Five

YouTuber and reviewer Alex Pattinson had wonderfully kind things to say about Angelique’s journey on April 6th on both her YouTube and Tumblr review sites, and added my article about the inspirations behind the book. Locatable via: http://alexsfictionaddiction.tumblr.com

Her review is: here

Her BookTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/c/AlexsFictionAddiction

This is a link to my article about the inspirations behind The Goose Road, but I’m not sure if WordPress and Tumblr are talking to each other via this blog. [Alternatively, the whole thing is here! I must get the hang of WordPress one day!]

Day Six

The next generation of talented & professional writers for young people to graduate from the MA at Bath Spa included a signed copy of The Goose Road in a promotional giveaway, show-casing the work of alumni. They’re show-casing their own work as Torchlight. Here is the link to their webpage

The giveaway is on Twitter: retweet to enter the giveaway and follow:

@TorchlightMAWYP

Day Seven

Faye Rogers launched the FIFTH giveaway on Twitter first thing Sunday morning, and added a brand new, never seen before extract. It follows on from Chapter 1, my featured blog above this one. Read on here.

To enter Faye’s giveaway (still UK only, I’m afraid) RT her giveaway tweet and follow her handle (and mine if you fancy!) Hers is @daydreamin_star .

Sunday also saw uber-book blogger Michelle Toy, of Tales of Yesterday fame, announcing that The Goose Road was her selection for Debut of the Month – always a fantastic accolade but a particular honour in April with such a strong field of contenders. Super proud to have been chosen, Chelley. Thank you very much.

Watch out for Book Challenge reviews on her site.

Week 2

Arriving soon on joshandabook.co.uk  will be my article “Myths, Mistakes and other inner debates about naming The Goose Road”, a rather rambling version of the story behind the decisions I made when choosing a title and the meanings behind it.

Plus more interviews and articles, and giveaways! What a week to coincide with London Book Fair.

Heart-felt thanks to everyone who made this tour happen: Walker Books and Jo Hardacre, and all the wonderful bloggers, reviewers, fellow writers, bookshops, teachers and readers who are taking the time to share their thoughts.

It means the world. Truly.

Happy reading!

 

Book birthday! THE GOOSE ROAD – by Rowena House Interview by Kerry Drewery

AUTHOR ALLSORTS

 Set in France in 1916, THE GOOSE ROAD is Rowena House’s debut novel, a poignant and powerful First World War coming-of-age quest.

R1.jpgThe Goose Road is based on a short story you wrote – The Marshalling of Angelique’s Geese – can you tell us a little about where the original idea for the short story came from?

The trigger for the plot was the memory of a First World War photo I’d seen years before – a picture of hundreds of farmyard geese in a railway yard, waiting to be transported across France. I’d also recently seen the National Theatre’s incredible production of War Horse, which has a goose character as well as those amazing horses, so images of geese were already mixed up in my mind’s eye with other impressions of the war, its mud and blood and appalling suffering. Then Andersen Press offered students on the…

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Blog tour: Goose Road – Rowena House

ramblingmads

In 1916, in France, Angelique is making Hay on her family’s farm when the postman delivers news – her father is dead. Angelique is not sorry – he was a cruel, drunkard of a man – but she is deeply relieved her brother, Pascal, is still alive. She makes a promise – then and there – that the farm will remain exactly the same until he beloved brother returns home. She hopes, desperately, that if nothing changes at home, he won’t either.

Of course, nothing goes to plan. The harvest is ruined by a storm, her mother falls ill and the bailiffs arrive, ready to repossess the farm after her father has gambled it away. Angelique sets off with her treasured flock of Toulouse geese to sell them to make enough money to save her family home and await her brother’s return…….

About the author;

Rowena studied journalism at LSE…

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