Two Sensational Snippets within 48 hours of each other – that doesn’t often happen!
The Peastick Girl is Susan Hancock’s first novel, and it’s an impressive debut. Although she is now Melbourne based, Hancock is New Zealand born and the excerpt below is her deft creation of a rugged Kiwi landscape.
Teresa is trying to marshal her thoughts about a failed relationship as she climbs a hill, but it’s one that demands full concentration:
She stopped and tried to figure out where she was. She seemed to have veered off onto the steep side, she didn’t remember this great barrier of gorse. It was too high, and thick enough to keep you in its grip forever. She turned round and looked doubtfully back but the gorse closed over behind her; all she could see was the top. Whipsnakes of cloud were already whizzing up from behind the outline of the hill, and soon with a whoompf the wind would come up too, like God’s forehead rising. And she was stuck there, waiting for the onslaught, a way off course.
I’m getting nowhere, she thought; two steps sideways and I’ll completely disappear. She couldn’t see a thing she recognised from here, her view completely fringed by gorse. It gave her a rectangular view, near but empty. It was as if the hill had turned her footsteps, winding her round in its course, like a screw with a crooked thread. She knew that somewhere below, or maybe further round to the left, the hill dropped away in a series of rough cliffs and bare faces far more frightening than anything on the seaward side. She couldn’t afford to take her chances, she would have to renegotiate the whole climb. Just then her right foot slid sideways on a worn edge and she dropped a few feet before grabbing at a gorse branch further down. I’m covered in wounds, she thought. She picked some spikes out of the top joint of her thumb; a shoal of little splinters lay just below the clear surface of her skin.
She was now completely hemmed in, with only a little window of view. It was oddly comforting, standing pinned by tough old plants, with no option except to stay and turn into a tree. If this was a myth, she thought, I’d be ravished now by a god, a bull maybe, or a golden snake. But maybe not a bull. Maybe I’d like something lighter, something more airborne; a winged being of some sort – something that didn’t actually get in.
Warm and sunny she stood in a little niche of the universe. All she needed now was the right kind of lover, and a breath (sweet scented Zephyr of the gorse) of the divine, and she could leave the mortal world behind. But there were dangers lurking and a storm coming up, she had to move. (p46)
I really like the light touch with the classical allusions and the cues that Teresa is no feeble female likely to submit to any old male god wanting to have his way.
You can read a sample chapter on the Black Pepper website.
Author: Susan Hancock
Title: The Peastick Girl
Publisher: Black Pepper Publishing, 2012
Source: Review copy courtesy of Black Pepper Publishing