We knew from the November berries what the next months would bring. Everywhere they were hung and clotted in the bushes, ripe and red, like blisters of blood. The hollies came out in autumn, and gave us ideas about selling genuine wreaths at the Hired Lad during Advent, rather than staining ivy with sheep raddle as we’d done in balder years. Rose hips clung on well past their season, until the birds eventually went with them. The yarrow and rowan hung out their own gaudy bunting. But it was the hawthorn that was the truest messenger that year, for it’d blossomed wildly in May too. The hawthorns sent the hedgerows ruddy as a battle. It meant a full winter of snow. It meant hoar frosts that would stop the hearts of mice in their burrows and harden tree sap under its white grip. The ground would only ever half-thaw until spring, like a clod of beef brought from the pantry and moved from cold room to cold room. Flocks would be lost under drifts. 151
from The Nightlong River in The Beautiful Indifference, Faber & Faber 2011.
Thanks to Jacquiwine for introducing us to this superb writer’s short story collection The Beautiful Indifference.
And here is a link to the longlist for this year’s Man Booker. Andrew O’Hagan is on for The Illuminations, which we reviewed here, as is Anne Enright for The Green Road, Tom McCarthy (Satin Island), Marilynne Robinson (Lila) and Anne Tyler (A Spool of Blue Thread). There are 3 debut novels including the interesting-sounding The Chimes (Sceptre), a literary dystopia set in a society where music has replaced the written word, by the New Zealander Anna Smaill.