Excerpt from The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Sisters Mortland

by Sally Beauman

The Sisters Mortland
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


The evidence of all Stella's searchings, all her short-lived vocations, is still here. There are the dried-up paints from the watercolorist spring; there's the sewing machine from the dress designer summer; there're the abandoned lenses from the photography period; and there's the clapped-out typewriter from the short-story-writer phase. That was the longest of the vocations and the last. Maybe Stella has finally found herself (I wonder how you do that?). Maybe she's given up looking. Either way, she avoids the refectory now.

Lucas has taken it over. He and Dan have just come down from Cambridge for the last time. They survived finals and arrived here, hideously hung over, the day after the Trinity May Ball. "It's the last long vac," Dan declared, "so let's make it a memorable one." Dan often stays at the Abbey now—he could stay with his father and grandmother in the village, but he prefers it here. He's encamped in his usual room in the main house and will stay till the end of the holidays. Lucas has visited before, but never for long—he never stays anywhere long—so this protracted visit is surprising. I don't think anyone exactly invited him, though I suppose Finn might have done. He's here for an indeterminate period. It could be the remainder of the summer, it could be less, it could be more. Lucas never makes plans—or if he does, he refuses to communicate them: He simply arrives when he feels like it and departs without warning or farewell. I can accept this, because Lucas and I understand each other; but for Finn and Julia, it's hard.

He's not interested in creature comforts. He sleeps under an old army blanket, on a lumpy couch in the corner. He brews coffee on a paraffin stove. When he wants a bath, he swims in the river. When he wants food, which isn't often, he comes up to the house, charms Stella, and raids the larder. Stella is a fine cook, and she thinks Lucas is a genius—an impression Lucas does nothing to discourage, I've observed. On the table over there, under a muslin fly protector, I can see her latest offerings to the artist-in-residence: a slice of Madeira cake and a lopsided, golden pork pie.

It's had a bite or two taken out of it. Next to it, propped up on an easel, turned to face the wall, and hidden behind screens, is the portrait Lucas is supposed to be painting—his recompense for living here all summer scot-free. It's a gigantic picture of Julia, Finn, and me, and Dan says it's going to be Lucas's magnum opus—for this year, anyway. It's to be called The Sisters Mortland, which I consider a dull, stupid title. Lucas doesn't seem to work on it very often—though he may work on it at night.

I'm not sleeping too well at night. Sometimes the nuns disturb me; sometimes it's my dreams. And once or twice, when I couldn't sleep, I've crept out of bed and come down to the garden, and I've seen the lights in here, blazing away. Lucas closes the interior shutters, but there are six bright slits striping the ground outside, like golden bars. It could be that these sketches of me are preparatory work for the portrait, or they may be unimportant, something he does to pass the time. I'd like to ask Lucas if they matter and why they might matter—but I know he won't answer: He's a secretive man. . . . It takes one to know one, as Bella likes to say: I'm a secretive girl.

Copyright © 2005 by Sally Beauman

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    In the Country of Men
    by Hisham Matar
    Labeled by some as the "Libyan Kite Runner", In The Country of Men does share some ...
  • Book Jacket: Holding Up the Universe
    Holding Up the Universe
    by Jennifer Niven
    Jennifer Niven's spectacular Holding Up the Universe has everything that I love about Young ...
  • Book Jacket: Coffin Road
    Coffin Road
    by Peter May
    From its richly atmospheric opening to its dramatic conclusion, Peter May's Coffin Road is a ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win All the Gallant Men

All The Gallant Men

The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor, 75 years after Pearl Harbor.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Y Eyes P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.