Excerpt from Farthing by Jo Walton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Farthing

by Jo Walton

Farthing
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2007, 320 pages

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"Kahn means that David’s ancestors were priests in Israel when ours were painting themselves blue with woad," I said, quoting---or probably misquoting---Disraeli.

Daddy smiled. "All the same, what it means to people now and in England will close a lot of doors in your face."

"Not doors I want to go through," I said.

Daddy raised an eyebrow at that.

"No, really, I have thought this through," I said, and I had, or thought I had. "You remember when Billy Cheriton was taking me about everywhere?" Billy had been one of Mummy’s worst ideas, the younger son of the Earl of Hampshire, who’s Mummy’s cousin and who happened to be married to one of her best friends. We’d known each other all our lives, gone to the same nursery parties, and then the same young-people parties, and Mummy’s idea had been what a natural match it would have been.

Daddy nodded. He didn’t think much of Billy.

"Once we were down at Cheltenham for the racing because Tibs had a horse running and Billy was showing the family flag. We were in a crowd of nice people just like us, and the horse lost, of course."

"Tibs Cheriton has never had an eye for horseflesh," Daddy said. "Sorry. Go on."

"So we were drowning our sorrows in Pimms, and I was bored, suddenly, bored to screaming point, not just with Cheltenham and that crowd but with the whole thing, the whole ritual. Tibs and one of the other boys were talking about horse breeding, and I thought that it was just the same with us, the fillies and the stallions, the young English gentry, breeding the next generation of English gentry, and I couldn’t think of anything more excruciatingly boring than to be married to Billy, or Tibs, or any of that cackling crowd." Not that I’d have married Tibs if he were the last man in the world, because I was pretty sure he was Athenian, and I think Mummy knew it too, otherwise it would have been Tibs she’d have been pushing me into going around with, not Billy. "I don’t want that. I’ve been presented and done all the deb stuff and even before I met David I knew it wasn’t what I wanted."

That was when Daddy said it. "Are you sure you’re not marrying David just to escape from that?" he asked. "To shock Billy and all the Billies by doing something they can’t countenance? Because if you are, it isn’t kind to David, and that’ll stop being fun too, much sooner than you think."

I thought about it, and I could see the smallest grain of that in me, the desire to give it all up and rub their faces in it with someone totally unacceptable by their own ridiculous standards. I’m afraid Mummy had rather done her bit to encourage that part of my feelings, while intending the opposite, of course. "I do think there might be the tiniest bit of that, Daddy," I admitted. "But really I love David, and he and I have so much in common in ways that aren’t to do with upbringing and education and that count for a lot more with me."

"He assured me he didn’t intend to pressure you to convert," Daddy said.

"He’s not very religious himself," I said.

"He told me he has no intention of giving up his religion." Daddy frowned.

"Why should he?" I asked. "It’s not just a religion, it’s a culture. He’s not very religious, but he’s not ashamed of his culture, his background, and converting would be like saying he was. It wouldn’t make any difference to anything anyway---people who hate the Jews hate converts just as much. He says Jewish children take the religion of the mother, so that’s all right."

"In the same way it would make no difference, people will always talk of you as ‘that Mrs. Kahn, Lucy Eversley that was.’" He made his voice into a cruel imitation of a society woman, of Mummy at her absolute bitchiest really.

Copyright © 2006 by Jo Walton

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