Monday, 18 July 2016

Edmund // Sonnets and the Sea

Apparently I only post stories now. Somehow, I feel I've lost my book bloggy mojo ... I just don't feel inspired to post much about books, except for photographs. I don't know. I never intended to be a writing blogger, but maybe that's what I'm becoming.

We shall see.

Galeria Tuset, collage and painting:
[source] // Galeria Tuset
This story is about Edmund Ruskin, the youngest of the four sibling MCs from my future novel A Room Alone. Do you remember the story Gaps and Margins? It was about Beatrice Kiteley, the daughter of an English teacher at (fictional) boys' boarding school St Anthony's. The story saw her walking the cliffs outside the school.

This piece kind of sees things from the other way round. Same cliffs, same girl, but through Edmund's eyes.


Edmund was sitting under a tree reading sonnets. 

The air was bright and crisp with salt. Mists of spray greeted him like new, slightly dangerous friends. Sometimes Edmund would stop reading to look at the heave of the ocean, green in the sunlight as it fought and sang with itself. In the wind the branches bent sideways and the bushes lent back; they were well learned at being braced against the roar. Edmund nestled inside them, a part of the landscape. He admired the sea today, as every day, but he knew he didn’t need to watch it. When he went somewhere new Edmund felt, half-nervously, the need to gulp the scenery, to imprint it on his mind lest he never see it again. He didn’t have that urgency here; this, bizarrely, had become home. He thought of his dread before St. Anthony’s and smiled. It seemed long ago. Now he was a native, a species that dwelt on the clifftop and made its nest in the salt-battered trees. 

Still smiling he turned back to Shakespeare. 

In the bruised paperback he felt a thousand lives were dwelling. He’d plucked it off the shelf at home, and Teresa smiled when she saw him. In that book, she said, she’d read her own first sonnets. Before that, his father must have read it, and perhaps his mother, too; Edmund fancied he could feel her presence, breathing in the pages. Did his father read it to her, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? He smiled again; another absurd thought, but perhaps. 

In the inside cover it said Daphne Lawrence, 1948, in his grandmother’s unpredictable hand: still girlish, but on the way to its vivid artistic flourish. In that year she was fifteen, like Edmund now. 1948. Daphne Lawrence, defying her parents with ambitions of the stage, having mad adventures in the Surrey summers, if she were to be believed. Daphne Lawrence, thrilled by Shakespeare in a Europe reeling from the Second World War. In his imagination she looked a little like Teresa and was winding red roses into her hair. 

But who bought her the book? Not her parents, if they realised her plans to make her name as Cleopatra and Ophelia and Juliet, and that this would fuel her dreams. Maybe it was a lover, if grandmothers could have such things, or maybe she’d bought it herself, fingers curling round currency that no longer existed. Shillings, farthings. Edmund liked the clink of the words, their promise of a time now history. Did she get it firsthand, or had others owned it before? Maybe she picked it up in a secondhand shop, that summer of ’48, and maybe she, too, pleased herself by imagining those who had come before. Maybe the book had crossed seas, travelled lands from end to end. Edmund pictured it in New York; the publication date of this edition was 1925, and maybe Fitzgerald or Hemingway had thumbed these very pages. Had the book seen Europe, adorned the shelves of Camus, Kafka? It could have had any quantity of owners, any number of minds thrilled by these carefully constructed, fourteen-line meteors. 

And Shakespeare himself was here, too, though he’d been dead three hundred years when these pages were printed. The words themselves flew from their paper prisons and rendered centuries no time at all; the words were as sharp and true and real as if the ink had only just dried, as if Shakespeare had left them out, beneath a window, and gone to make some tea. 

Edmund smiled. Did they even have tea in the sixteenth century? He had no idea, but that wasn’t important, either, because history fell away in the face of language’s incredible power. Him, Teresa, their parents, their grandmother, everyone else who’d ever looked into these sonnets and been amazed; all of them rose around him like a host of wraiths from the ocean, and the sea’s music was the music of poetry, which he read and they read and which filled them all with wonder. Here, on the cliffs outside St Anthony’s, Edmund was the heir to an uncountable line of literature lovers, a piece in a picture too great to visualise. A wave in the swell of the ocean. 

Still smiling he returned to the book. 

When he looked up again he saw the girl. 

She made him jump. Her rust-coloured hair was flying in the wind, a beacon around her, and she stood among the trees like a dryad appeared from their willowy trunks. She had a singular quality, something too strange to be beauty but too captivating to be anything else. Edmund blinked. Was he imagining her, a Shakespeare-loving ghost from the past? Ghost, phantom; he pictured her as Ophelia, surrounded by water, as she stood there silhouetted against the sea. She was staring at the horizon and he watched her, wondering what she saw in the green depths. She turned, treading the thin stony path with practised grace, and he saw she had a book beneath her arm. She was too far away for Edmund to make out the title. 

The girl was coming towards him; now she was so close that, if he spoke to her, she’d hear him over the ocean’s crash. She lifted her head, russet hair whipping back, and saw him. Colour flooded her face. She span on her heel, head dipping, body contracting. Edmund opened his month, but what would he say? The girl was walking away, shoulders hunched, and he didn’t think she’d welcome conversation. Edmund wouldn’t welcome it, either. Talking to her would involve talking to her, and talking to anyone was low on his list of favourite hobbies. Clearly she felt the same, because she disappeared behind the trees. Edmund ran his finger down the book’s punished spine. There was something easy about a meeting – or non-meeting – between the very shy or misanthropic. No explanation was required, no politeness. You just got out. Hurrah for introverts everywhere. A wry smile.

She’d looked at home on the cliffs, though, and if she’d stayed they could have sat, metres apart, without talking, like two quiet but companionable trees. Equally, Edmund liked to have the sea to himself. But he did regret not knowing what she’d been reading.


[source] // this picture makes me think of Beatrice
Have you ever read any of Shakespeare's sonnets?? If not, prepare to be amazed! Otherwise tell me: where is your favourite place to read? (Also, do you ship these two yet, or is it just me?)


  1. I have a soft spot for the name Edmund... :) this sounds really sweet and cozy and gives me the same feelings certain books from my childhood give me...would love to read more of this! I am all for bookworm characters (also ginger characters, being one myself...)

    1. Me too :') The Edmund storyline is so sweet and calm. The other three, his siblings, are all really angsty/heartbreaking, so Edmund is such a relief! I'm glad you liked it, Ely <3

  2. I'm glad to see more of Edmund! I'm becoming more and more attached this family.

    One of my favorite places to read is outside in the yard under a nice shady tree - good time of year for it!

    1. As am I!

      That sounds lovely. Summer is the best for reading and writing outside <3

  3. I like this idea of revisiting a scene/character/etc, but from a different perceptive. I notice Edmund's perspective is similar to Beatrice's in their love of the waves and words, but there's still something that sets them apart.

    1. Waves and words definitely bring them together, but I am SO glad you think they have different voices! It is so important, but so DIFFICULT, to maintain both your distinctive writer voice, but also separate character voices. Sometimes I worry all mine sound the same >.< So thanks, Blue! <3

  4. Your writing is just whats the word... gorgeous. This whole scene reminded me of the song Ophelia by The Lumineers. For obvious reasons of course.

    1. Thank you! You are so kind. I don't know that song but I'll look it up :)

  5. Are you kidding me? LDKFJALFJ OF COURSE, I SHIP THEM!

    I love, love this so much. I don't even know what to do with myself.

    "In the bruised paperback he felt a thousand lives were dwelling." I love this line. It's exactly what I love about secondhand books, especially old, old books. I love imagining the lives of the people who've read it, how it affected them, what they were going through in life at the time, etc. It's like the book wears stories in its crinkles and stains and torn bits. But real stories about ordinary readers like us.

    I like how you talk about how Shakespeare is also so present in his own sonnets, "as if Shakespeare had left them out, beneath a window, and gone to make some tea." A good handful of his sonnets speak about how the subject of his poems shall live on forever in the written word and shall be immortalized and yet he was also immortalizing himself too.

    Tea? Of course it was around in the sixteenth century! Uh, wouldn't it be? I have difficulty imagining a time before tea. It just feels like one of those things that has always been. Like this is what God and Adam talked over in Eden before the Fall. Okay, I've got to look this up. BRB!

    Okay, so the first historical reference to tea was around the 3rd century AD in China. Although there is an ancient legend in China about the creation of tea which according to legend took place in 2737 BC? Yeah. . . But basically, tea was around in Asia long before it became popular in Europe and the fist mention of tea in Britain was an advertisement in a London paper in 1658 or something like that. At that time it was called China Drink and apparently Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that he had tried some.

    Ahem, back to topic.

    "all of them rose around him like a host of wraiths from the ocean, and the sea's music was the music of poetry" I love this line too. I can really see it and I like how he connects the book with all these previous people, especially his family since he's living away, who've read it before him.

    That whole second to last about paragraph about talking and, ugh, why would you want to do that? And meetings between shy and misanthropic people. I LOVE THAT PARAGRAPH SO MUCH! I WANT TO HUG IT! I relate so much to Beatrice, and Edmund. The part where she leaves and he's partly glad for it makes me think of that line in Romeo and Juliet when Benvolio said:
    "I- measuring his affections by my own,
    Which then most sought where most might not be found,
    Being one too many by my weary self-
    Pursu'd my humour, not pursuing his,
    And gladly shunn'd who gladly fled from me."

    I love that line! Is that awful?

    "But he did regret not knowing what she'd been reading." Thew perfect last line!

    1. Aww, you're a babe, thank you so much!

      EXACTLY. Books as objects are so so interesting. Hence why I never want an ereader.

      So true. In a lot of the sonnets he's like, even when I'm gone they'll remember you, which of course hasn't happened, because we remember him, and not the subject. Which I guess he knew. Ugh, I just love them so much, though! My fave being Sonnet 27.

      I properly love how you went and looked that up XD OK, so, 1658. Shakey died in 1616. So there you go. ~nods wisely~

      Thank you for all the love! I do not know those lines well but yes! I really feel like that sometimes. You cannot be bothered dealing with someone else's emotions .... I recently saw a live stream of a London production of Rom and Jul starring Lily James and Richard Madden and Derek Jacobi. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh and it was WONDERFUL. It reminded me all over again why I love that play SO MUCH.

      BOOK ROMANCES = THE BEST. ~cough cough~ Corem ~cough cough~ PS ship name for these two: Edatrice! How good does that sound?!

    2. I had to go read 27. It's really good! I rather like that one now.

      It is really odd thinking that Shakespeare never had a cup of tea. Ever.

      Edatrice! Love it! :)

    3. Isn't it?! That was the first time I was really like SHAKESPEARE WAS A PERSON. Obviously I loved him before -- because Rom and Jul and Macbeth and Hamlet -- but I thought of him more as just a general genius, not so much a man; whereas reading that I just felt SO strongly his humanity. Like, he lay in bed and thought about someone. How often have I done that too?! Gah. That's probably what prompted this piece. The commonality of literature.

      So odd. I can't imagine writing not fuelled by tea. Remarkable.

      ME TOO!

  6. EMILYYYYYYY. Your writing has this delicious FLAVOR to it, like it's almost something I can sink my teeth into and taste. <3 I love this piece. (I don't think I read the one from another perspective. Shameful. But I'm restricting myself to catching up on your most recent posts today, so it will have to wait.)

    Edmund is such a darling! I love him already. And I also love that last bit about introverts just escaping the presence of other people. XD

    At the beginning, this piece reminded me of a sweet little juvenile book I read earlier this year, "The Romeo and Juliet Code" by Phoebe Stone. :)

    Anyway, you are a fabulous writer!

    1. Aww, thank you, Tracey! I guess after such nice comments (and the fact you read six of my posts in one day!) I can probably forgive you ....

      I love him too! <3 I've not heard of that book, but anything to do with Rom and Jul has my attention!

      You are a babe! <3


Thanks for commenting! :)