Wives of the Fishermen

Wives of the Fishermen

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Ravishing, extravagant, flirtatious Annie MacLeoud and kind, plain, virtuous Myrtle Duns cannot remember a time when they were not the most loving, rivalrous and unlikely of friends; unflinchingly loyal to each other in the harsh climate of the Scottish fishing village which is their home. Their friendship has been tested many times, most of all when Myrtle embarks upon the great love affair of her life, while the beautiful Annie finds only disappointment.

Still the friendship survives, until a horrifying accident destroys the equilibrium and exposes the secret sadness, jealous and betrayal each has hidden over the years.

Angela Huth has written eleven novels, four collections of short stories as well as plays for radio, TV and the stage. Two of her earlier novels—Virginia Fly is Drowning and Sun Child—she adapted for the BBC and Land Girls was made into the 1998 feature film The Land Girls. She is also a well-known freelance journalist, critic broadcaster. She is married to a don, lives in Oxford and has two daughters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781531845179
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 06/21/2016
Sales rank: 709,060
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)

About the Author

ANGELA HUTH has written three collections of short stories and several novels, including Land Girls. She lives in Oxford, England.

Read an Excerpt

It is the habit of fishermen's wives to glance at the horizon many times a day, but only one of their own kind will recognise the furtive looks, the tightening of anxiety behind eyes that have grown prematurely old from checking distant sea.

A moment too late Myrtle Duns flicks her eyes back from the window. Annie, looking up from her cards, has seen.

'Ach, stop worrying,' she says.

She watches Myrtle lift the black kettle from the range, pour boiling water into a brown pot. Unbroken cloud, divided into squares by the panes of a small window, is powered by enough brightness to light the sides of the old teapot with colours of petrol flung upon water: threads of gold and incandescent mauve. Annie knows that Myrtle will now take two mugs from hooks, two tin spoons from a drawer, pour milk into a souvenir jug from Dundee. She will lift the pot with both hands, testing its weight, judging the amount of water to be correct before transporting it to the table with a listing movement that bends and splays the pleats of her long woollen skirts. The rhythm of tea-making is familiar from hundreds of such afternoons spent together.

All the time Annie watches her friend the cards flicker in her hands. Sometimes they rise in fans. Then, disapproving of such petty skill, quick fingers snap them back into a neat pack. The silky sound of their activity is the single noise in the room, for now the kettle has stopped its spluttering. Myrtle stands motionless by the range, waiting for the tea to brew.

She is a large woman, hands rough as salt cod, tall. The kitchen ceiling clears her head by only a few inches. Shemoves with practised skill among the narrow spaces, managing her wide hips with dignity. Archie says she sometimes put him in mind of an opera singer, the way she glides. It's as if there are wheels under her skirts, he says. For Lord's sake stop scoffing at your wife, Archie, she answers, pleased by his observation, for she recognises the admiration beneath the teasing. But in response she would clench her hands and punch him gently behind his ear till he caught her big wrist and forced it to a halt, the muscles in his arms rising like waves of bone.

'Archie,' says Annie, slapping down the cards, 'is the best skipper any boat could have. You know that.'

'Aye.' Myrtle sits. She arranges the tea things protectively in front of her. The apparent passivity of her face hardens. Blank eyes. Neither mouth nor nose twitch. She no longer has consciously to remind herself that any remark Annie makes about Archie should be greeted with an impassive expression.

'How's Janice?' Myrtle asks after a while.

'She's bonnie. High marks at school again.'

'That's grand.'

Annie finds it hard to resist informing Myrtle of her daughter's high marks several times a week.

'I think they're beginning to see her worth,' she says.

'That's good, too.'

Annie shuffles the cards.

'Mrs Singer said to me not two days ago: "Mrs Mcleoud," she says, "your Janice is on her way to being a great beauty as well as a scholar."' She pauses, looks down. Modesty, or the nearest she can get to it, webs her eyes. 'I couldn't say that to anyone but you, Myrtle. But I believe there's some truth in it.'

'Oh there is, that's for sure,' says Myrtle warmly. She accepts a pile of cards slimy with age. It's not yet time to pour the tea. Her look slides from Annie's small, busy hands to her face: the tiny nose with its nostrils the shape of horizontal petals, the opal eyes, the mouth whose dividing line in repose is the subtlest of shallow curves—-a mouth that can jump from solemnity to laughter with astounding speed. In the rubble of dark curls, Myrtle observes that Annie has a few grey hairs. But her friend has changed very little over the years. She was the prettiest child in the school, the village, for miles along the coast. Her looks had tempted admirers from Fife to Dundee. It is no wonder her only child, Janice, is set to follow her mother's reputation. Myrtle sometimes wonders if Janice will cause as much chaos, as much agony of spirit, in her friends. She wonders if she has inherited the same powers of persuasion of her innocence, so that she will always be forgiven. Everyone had always forgiven Annie, Myrtle most of all.

As children, Myrtle and Annie walked to school together holding hands. On cold mornings, Myrtle wore mittens of scratchy wool. Annie wore gloves. The bare ends of Myrtle's cold fingers would burrow into the warmth of Annie's angora hand. She longed for gloves herself. But in her mother's cautious mind they were an extravagance not even to be considered. Very quickly Myrtle gave up hoping her mother would relent. Dot Stewart was not a woman accustomed to changing her mind for the benefit of others. Locked into the narrow disciplines of a hard life, her beliefs in everything—-from the rewards of the afterlife to the number of blankets a healthy person should be allowed on the bed—-were unchangeable. The firmness of her convictions was a matter of pride. To be caught changing them, no matter how persuasive an argument, would be despicable weakness. Myrtle and her father, understanding these things, learnt it was easier to agree with Dot, do her bidding. Any opposition caused scenes so fraught, so emotionally exhausting, that they suffered the cold of dreaded winter nights rather than try to persuade Dot of their need for more blankets.

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