The Retreaters, page 27
Tomorrow, there will be beds to make and floors to vacuum, tomorrow she will think of Mason and wonder about all the unidentifiable birds that surround him, now that he is without his book, wherever he is. But for now, this is all she need do. It is her day off. Out of habit she takes a dust cloth from the storage cabinet and wipes it over the bookshelves. She places Mason’s book into an available space in the reference section, and sees that all her books, the ones she brought with her the night of the flood, are still resting on top of the cabinet.
One by one, she retrieves them and begins to file them alphabetically, amongst the fiction titles available for guests to borrow.
Ben comes through the door, whistling. ‘I thought I might find you here,’ he says. He goes to the window and looks out, waits for her to file her last book. Outside, above the mountains, a lone cloud melts into the blue. He starts to tell her about tonight’s dinner menu, his voice resonating in this room full of words. And on this spring morning in a wine-country retreat fifteen kilometres outside of Hatton River, where birds sing in the trees and lambs bleat in the paddocks, there is nothing to do but listen.
For information regarding conversion disorders, I relied primarily on two websites, namely www.mayoclinic.com and www.medical-library.org. Also, Gerald C. Davison & John M. Neale’s Abnormal Psychology Revised Sixth Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) provided a wealth of information on all things psychological.
For specific details on sudden hearing loss, www.hearinglossweb.com also proved invaluable.
For the various literary quotes that appear throughout the novel, my sources are listed below:
‘Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.’ From William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest. Act I, Scene II. (Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, 2005).
‘I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.’ From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. Chapter 2. (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1950).
‘To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.’ From Emily Dickinson. A partial form of this quote can be found in ed. Martha Dickinson Bianchi, The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson. (New York: Biblo & Tannen Publishers, 1971).
‘It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached…’ From Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre. Chapter 11. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1994).
‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ From John Keats’ poem, To Autumn, which can be found in John Keats, Selected Poems. (United Kingdom: Collector’s Poetry Library, 2004).
‘The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.’ From Virginia Woolf’s story, An Unwritten Novel, which can be found in her collection of short stories, Monday or Tuesday: Eight Stories. (Dover Publications, 1997).
‘I knew you would do me good in some way, at some time: I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you.’ From Charlotte Brontë’s, Jane Eyre. Chapter 15. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1994).
‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’ From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. Chapter 9. (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1950).
The lines of poetry in the supermarket scene are taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, To My Mother, which can be found in Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems. (New Jersey: Castle Books, 2002, 2001, and 1985).
‘I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel.’ From Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar. Chapter 1. (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1966).
‘And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?’ From Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet. From the chapter on Crime and Punishment. (London: Pan Books Ltd, 1991).
‘Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?’ From Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, A Dream Within A Dream, which can be found in Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems. (New Jersey: Castle Books, 2002, 2001, and 1985).
‘When the horses were unyoked; beyond, a quiet coppice-wood, in which many leaves of burning red and golden yellow still remained upon the trees.’ From Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities. Chapter 3. (London: David Campbell Publishers Ltd. 1993).
‘And though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke.’ From Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. Chapter 35. (Everyman’s Library; New edition, 1994).
‘Words were not the servants of life, but life, rather, was the slave of words.’ From Patrick White’s, Voss. (Vintage; New edition, 1994).
‘That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been.’ From Charles Dickens’, Great Expectations. Chapter 9. (Penguin Classics; Revised edition, 2002).
‘No — I cannot talk of books in a ballroom; my head is always full of something else.’ From Jane Austen’s, Pride and Prejudice. Chapter 18. (Bantam Classics, 1983).
‘Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.’ From James Joyce’s, Ulysses. Chapter 13. Ed. Hans Walter Gabler. (London: Bodley Head, 1993).
‘Women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation.’ From Charlotte Brontë’s, Jane Eyre. Chapter 12. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1994).
‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ From William Faulkner’s, Requiem for a Nun. Act I, Scene III. (Vintage, 1975).
‘As it got to be flood-tide, and the water came nearer to them, noises on the river became more frequent, and they listened more.’ From Charles Dickens’, Our Mutual Friend. Chapter 13. (London: Everyman’s Library, David Campbell Publishers Ltd.).
Firstly, thanks to Ms Ann-marie Furney, for being a teacher to remember, and for setting me on this path in the first place. And to a more recent mentor, Whitney Otto, who during a week in Oregon was funny, generous, and inspiring.
For all the coffees (and conversations) at 81st and Second, I’d like to thank Gabe. Thanks also to Nicki, for reading the manuscript more closely than I ever would have asked her to, and for caring enough to comment on a line about an ant. I’m indebted, too, to my friends and earliest readers, Pip, Lou, and Cindy.
For their unwavering interest and support, I’d like to thank Barbara and Charles, and for reading the book more times than I’d care to count, much gratitude goes to Mona — my ideal reader, mother-in-law, and friend.
Susan Malone’s editorial insight and generosity came at a crucial time in this writer’s life — thank you. And to Sophie Hamley, kindred spirit and stellar agent. You were the turning point. Thank you for everything, especially your humour.
I’m grateful to all at ABC Books, especially Jody Lee, for her warmth and guidance in bringing this book to fruition, and Kim Swivel, whose skilful, perceptive editing was invaluable.
Thanks to my wonderful sister, Jane, and to Nan, for always asking me how the book was going, even when it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. And to my mother, who read to me as a child and who reads to me still, whenever she gets the chance.
Finally, I’d like to thank my father, who is with me every day, and my husband, Chris — I couldn’t have done it without you.
About the Author
SHARLENE MILLER BROWN was born and raised in Central Western New South Wales. She is a graduate of Sydney University (Bachelor of Arts majoring in Literature and Psychology) and has worked in recruitment in Sydney. In 2003 she moved to New York City, and started writing full time. The Retreaters is her first novel.
She currently divides her time between New York and Australia, and is at work on her second novel.
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First published in 2008
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Miller Brown, Sharlene.
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Sharlene Miller Brown, The Retreaters