Friday, April 2, 2010

The beginning...

I'm participating in Kelly's (of Kelly's Compositions) first page blogfest. Herewith the first 24 (and a half) lines of The Poison Hill. Run over and take a look at the others as well.

There had never been a time, after Gertrude had known David, when she had not believed that she would marry him someday. He had first appeared in the driveway in 1919, in that jittery spring after the war: an intense, upright boy who even in high school still tied up his books with a cord, who waited for her brother Louis at 7 a.m., rain, snow or fog, refusing all enticements into the kitchen. Nah, I’ll wait out here. Nah, I’m OK, Mrs. Leskow. He had called their housekeeper, Alida, Mrs. Leskow, and he repeated the gaffe almost daily, never acknowledging in any serious way that he had made a mistake long after he must have realized it.


That was the year that a chant, rhyming “Leskow” with “presto!” was raised whenever Louis crossed the high school campus, the year of his debating win streak, the year the Juniors ran the Junior-Senior Banquet (as they called it) as a Russian Revolution party and served caviar and borscht.

It was the year, too, that Louis brought home “Crazy Blues” and wound up the Victrola until the twining blues, rambling like a vine, climbed out and Gertrude found him dancing a solo grizzly bear on the Persian carpet, arms squeezed around himself, hopping from side to side.

No one else could understand their music. That murky wailing, those screeching horns! Their parents thought it was awful. And yet it was life; it was happiness; it was truth and justice and passion and everything else that had been locked up in the closet and lost. Thereafter Gertrude sat in front of the Victrola and wound it up over and over, shivering happily as the distant voice began again:
I can’t sleep at night, I can’t eat a bite…
’Cause the man I love, he don’t treat me right…


Even David, normally so scornful of everything, had grabbed her as he listened to it, and stepped her backward across the room in a kind of tango and dipped her far, far back until she shrieked.

19 comments:

roxy said...

Laura, you are an amazing writer. You have so many good lines in here. I loved this first page. I wish I could back in time to this era, and you painted it all so well. Great beginning, now where's the rest?

laurapauling said...

I love that you're tackling historical fiction. And I sense a great character in Gertrude, but it was hard to feel involved in the opening because it felt like story set up. But I love that you know all those details of your character and your story. I have a feeling you really know your story and that shows.

DL Hammons said...

I slipped into this like a comfy chair! Awesome writing. I'd turn the page...and probably many others after that.

Nicole said...

I love the first sentence. It immediately got me interested and I was sucked into the time period. Great writing!

Laura Canon said...

Thanks for the kind words. It took me awhile to get exactly the right beginning.
Laurapauling, I know what you mean about story set up. I had to balance the need for a certain amount of backstory. The narrative does open up a couple of pages after this.

Kelly Lyman said...

I'm a sucker for historical fiction! You drew me in with the first sentence- knowing that she'll marry him someday. Great job. I want to know more for sure.
Thanks for participating!

whitneyhenderson said...

I like it! I want to know more about how she knew she'd marry him, what's going to happen. I like the details about what else happened that year, too, it gives a nice frame for the story.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great job setting the tone in this scene. I really feel like I'm there.And I love the first sentence; it really grabs you and pulls you in. :)

Elaine AM Smith said...

I adored your work - for brevity taking out the who and leaving the what might strengthen it?

There had never been a time when she had not believed that she would marry him.

Laura Canon said...

Elaine -- you know, it sounds silly but I thought if I wrote the sentence that way it wouldn't be strictly true, since it would imply she had wanted to marry him her whole life, even before she knew him. So I structured it the way it is now.

Tara said...

Great first sentence! You have a wonderful sense of storytelling :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

woo-hoo, Laura! This is so packed with a sense of place and time and character. Awesome job. I want more.

Catherine A. Winn said...

I have to agree with the others, it's pulled me back in time and I want to know about Gertrude and her life.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I love the title to your novel. It would catch the eye of a browser in a bookstore going down the aisles. And I think it would snare the eye of an agent as he/she picked up your manuscript.

At first I was afraid your beginning would become clunky in exposition. But soon you swept me up in your story like David swept up Gertrude in that tango.

And Gertrude sounds like an acutal person's name, lending reality to your tale. Aren't you tired of all those Victoria's and Claudia's in those historical novels? Real people have real names. Did I mention my name was really Dorian Standish? Silly, right?

Check out my first page and see what you think. Have a healing weekend, Roland

Lilah Pierce said...

Grabs you and keeps you! You're very talented! Great job!

Hosting Last Line Blogfest, details on my site.

Julie Dao said...

Laura, what a fantastic beginning. I was hooked right away. I love the reminiscing, nostalgic feel of the character's voice. I would definitely read on.

Abby Annis said...

Love the first sentence! Great job! :)

maybe genius said...

Phenomenal description going on here. I love the personality you infuse into your characters and scenes with the elements you choose to bring out. Fantastic :)

Just Another Sarah said...

Ohh! I liked it! I like your details, and the opening line is striking, kind of calm and pleasant with a murky undertone of something not quite right...at least, to me. Thanks for sharing--and sorry for my delay in posting!