Happy March, readers!
The way my daffodils are starting to emerge, spring is on its way, which always means new and fascinating books to check out, too. This week, I have something engaging and thrilling--an excerpt from a new book by author Liz Harris. First off, let's find out more about what Liz's book is all about.
The Lengthening Shadow
(The Linford Series Blurb)
By Liz Harris
When Dorothy Linford marries former German internee, Franz Hartmann, at the end of WWI, she’s cast out by her father, Joseph, patriarch of the successful Linford family.
Dorothy and Franz go to live in a village in south-west Germany, where they have a daughter and son. Throughout the early years of the marriage, which are happy ones, Dorothy is secretly in contact with her sister, Nellie, in England.
Back in England, Louisa Linford, Dorothy’s cousin, is growing into an insolent teenager, forever at odds with her parents, Charles and Sarah, and with her wider family, until she faces a dramatic moment of truth.
Life in Germany in the early 1930s darkens, and to Dorothy’s concern, what had initially seemed harmless, gradually assumes a threatening undertone.
Brought together by love, but endangered by acts beyond their control, Dorothy and Franz struggle to get through the changing times without being torn apart.
The Lengthening Shadow Excerpt
A brooding stillness hung above the frozen landscape.
Her elbows resting on the living room windowsill and her chin on her hands, Dorothy stared through the squared panes of glass to the wide track in front of their house, which crossed from the east to the west of Rundheim, the large village in the south-west of Germany that had been her home for the past nine months.
The tracks in the blanket of snow outside showed that the snow was thicker than it had been the day before. Her heart sank. It meant yet another day stuck in the house.
Franz was right, of course, that she needed to be extra cautious, being only a couple of months away from giving birth. But she couldn’t help regretting that she’d told him about her mother losing a baby in the early stages of a pregnancy that had occurred in the three years between her birth and that of Robert.
As soon as Franz had heard that, he’d become even more anxious that she didn’t take any unnecessary risks, and from the moment that they’d woken up at the end of October and seen that the ground was sheened with frost and the leaden grey sky threatened snow, going outside, he’d told her, would be an unnecessary risk, both for her and for their unborn child.
From that time on, he went across to the shops first thing every morning, bought whatever he could from the limited choice on the shelves, and took everything back to the house before leaving for the school where he taught.
The care he took of her made her feel deeply loved, and she was grateful for that. But at the same time, she couldn’t help feeling frustrated by the limitations placed on her movement. Having worked hard for most of the war years, she was used to being busy from morning till night, and to find herself restricted to the house was difficult to get used to.
And it wasn’t as if she was ill—she was only pregnant, a point she’d made hesitantly on the only occasion since the onset of winter on which she’d suggested going outside.
It had been early in January, and as the fall of snow in the night had been unusually light, it hadn’t taken Franz long to clear a path through the snow from their house to the road, and then with the other men in the village, to sweep the snow from the area in front of the shops. After that, he’d come back into the house to exchange his shovel for the enamel blue can in which they collected their daily litre of goat’s milk from the produce shop.
He’d left the front door open for a moment or two, and she’d felt a gust of crisp morning air on her face. It had been blissful.
Perhaps she could be the one to take the can across the road for the milk that morning, she’d suggested, staring through the doorway with longing. She’d be extremely careful, she assured him.
But he’d refused to allow this. She had only to fall once, he’d told her, just once, and he’d left her to complete the sentence.
In her heart, she’d known he was right, but it had been all she could do not to cry at the thought of yet another day confined to the house. But the loving concern she’d seen on his face stayed with her in the weeks that followed, and she’d never again asked to go outside.
Fortunately, she’d soon have her freedom back, she thought, glancing through the wood-framed window to the crossroads on her right. In just over two months, the winter would have passed, the baby would have arrived, and once more she’d be able to visit her neighbours. She especially looked forward to being able to go across to Herta’s for coffee and cake, so that Herta didn’t always to have to come over to her.
How lucky they were to live across the track from Karl and Herta, whom they liked so much, and with whom they’d become such good friends in the relatively short space of time that she and Franz had lived in Rundheim.
Her gaze settled on Karl and Herta’s half-timbered house, its dark wood outer beams stark against the ivory pallor of walls that were melting into the whiteness of the world around them, and she felt a wave of gratitude towards Karl. It was thanks to Karl that she and Franz now lived in Rundheim.
A couple of months after Franz had started teaching at the Gymnasium in Rundheim, Karl, one of his fellow English teachers, had mentioned that the house opposite his had just become vacant. It stood at the crossroads in the centre of the town, he’d told Franz. It wasn’t too far from the high school, and was close to the shops.
At the time, she and Franz had been living in a low-ceilinged attic flat in the small town of Morbach, where Franz had been raised. Although his father had died just before the war, he’d been expecting his mother to be still living there, and as soon as he’d been released from the internment camp, which had happened a few months after the Armistice had been signed, he and Dorothy had married, and then headed straight for Morbach.
To his intense grief, he’d learned on his arrival that his mother had died some months earlier, not long after their house had been destroyed in a British raid. But as he’d wanted to stay in an area he knew, which held so many memories for him, they’d moved into the attic flat, which had only a kitchen, and a living room with a drying area for clothes and a double bed in the corner. There was a shared toilet on the floor below.
While she strove to make the flat as comfortable as possible, and to become familiar with the food in the shops, much of which was strange to her, and which she cooked with varying degrees of success, Franz had gone out every morning, searching for a teaching position. Until he found one, he took on any casual jobs he could get.
Finally, to their great relief as they were living on the money Franz was making from any work he got, and they were anxious not to use what was left of the money she’d saved from her allowance, having already made a dent in it by funding their wedding and then the journey to Germany, he found a post, which was in Rundheim.
Unfortunately, Morbach was some distance from Rundheim, which lay south of Morbach, in an area of low-lying hills and wide river valleys broken up by lakes and patches of woodland, and both she and Franz had been anxious about how he would get to the Gymnasium once winter set in. They couldn’t have been more delighted, therefore, when a month after Franz had started there, his colleague, Karl, had told him about an empty house opposite his.
He’d like the house, Karl had told Franz. The tenant who’d moved out had been a master builder, and he’d converted his fourth bedroom upstairs to a bathroom with toilet, and had then done the same for Karl and Herta, and for the local butcher, and several others in the village who’d been able to pay for the work.
Two weeks later, Franz and Dorothy had moved in.
They’d instantly felt at home among the people of Rundheim, some of whom Franz had already come to know through his teaching. It was the sort of place where people popped casually in and out of each other’s homes, and where they helped each other in times of difficulty, a kindness from which she’d benefited on numerous occasions since she’d been unable to go outside.
Christians and Jews lived side by side, and when the snow came, they’d all gone out together with spades, and digging shoulder to shoulder, had cleared first the path to the synagogue in the north of village, and then the track that led to the church at the bottom of the hill in the south of the village.
She was enormously lucky to have found a home among such friendly people, she frequently thought.
All About Liz Harris, Author
Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California,
where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.
A few years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, and then in Cheshire.
In addition to the nine novels she’s had published, she’s had several short stories in anthologies and magazines.
Liz now lives in Oxfordshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, cinema, reading and cryptic crosswords. To find out more about Liz, visit her website at: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com
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