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Excerpt from The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Other Side of the World

by Stephanie Bishop

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop X
The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2016, 256 pages
    Jun 2017, 256 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Print Excerpt


Cambridge 1966

She would have walked, only Henry said no. The footpaths are treacherous, he told her, and I don't want you slipping and injuring yourself when I've just found you alive and well. The snow has come early and the cold is fierce. No, he said, I'll come and collect you and bring you back here, to the hotel near the river. There wasn't room for them all in his apartment and Charlotte didn't want the college knowing of their situation, so Henry had booked rooms at the Royal. He'll be driving past the river now, she thinks, checking her watch. Her husband, ever punctual. The water a dark stripe in the corner of his vision. He'll see it as he drives straight ahead, lose it as he turns left, then right. On the river there will be rowboats—the faint sound of blades smacking and cutting at the water, the creak of hull and oarlock, the call of boys.

Charlotte opens the window and pushes her face into the cold. Outside, the college grounds are empty—the air filled with the whirr of falling snow. There are no birdcalls, no lawn mowers, no hum of the London train, no movement other than this drift of white. The wind gusts towards her and she steps back into the dim room. Although there is not much more to pack, her stamina has vanished. There is a glass paperweight from the market, a small blue vase for the flowers she gathered on her tramps through the fields, the photograph she stole from Henry. But the effort required to wrap these last things and place them in the box seems monumental. She crouches on the ground, tugs a sheet of newspaper from the pile, and stuffs it into the vase. She slips the photograph of the children into her handbag. Altogether there is less than she expected, just a couple of boxes and a suitcase. Henry will be surprised.

Another gust blows snow into the room. Charlotte gets up to close the window and sees his car parked beside the hedge. How had she not heard his arrival? The purr of the engine and the slow crunch of wheels over gravel and ice. She had kept the window open so that she might catch the sound of these things. She didn't expect this. He will be here any moment now. She had meant to watch for the car and use those last minutes to compose herself. To be ready; to know what to say. She starts to sweat. There is the smell of it. This frightened animal called woman. Her hands shake as she lifts the small round mirror to her face and tries to fix a smudge of blue eye shadow. She rubs a hand against the center of her chest and walks a nervous circle, to the door and back, her heart skittering beneath her palm. Should she let him in, and invite him to sit down, or should she wait by the window and call out—It's open—when he knocks? Then they'll walk towards each other. Or will he find her with her back to him? She'll turn, and each will pause, unsure of who should make the first approach. He'll brush the snow from his coat; he'll take off his hat. And the children? Where are they? The children.



Cambridge, October 1963–December 1964

She clambers over the fence and strides out into the field. It is autumn, cold—an arctic wind blows and her coat billows behind her. Rain falls in a sudden shower, but she pushes on into the green distance and further, towards the blue rise where the woodlands begin. It is like wading into the sea, she thinks. The wind against her, the grass up at her knees. They go on for miles, these grazing lands, and the further she walks the smaller she becomes, until she is just a thin black mark against the fen. Henry must be wondering where she's got to—she could never be lost here, but she could disappear, she thinks, as she passes the slow cows chewing frozen ground, steam rising from their flanks. She passes the pond, covered now with silvery ice, the frosted hedge of brambles. Above her the sky is mottled brown and grey, and the air smells of dung and grass. The leaves on the hawthorns are gone; those on the horse chestnuts are still browning and falling. She is on her way back from the doctor's, so it must be a Monday, or perhaps Tuesday. Dr. Pascoe only sees patients Mondays and Tuesdays. How can I lose track of time like this? she thinks. Dates do not seem to matter; one day feels the same as the next. But they do matter, the doctor assured her, they do indeed. "You must be mistaken," she said. "You cannot be right."

Excerpted from The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop. Copyright © 2016 by Stephanie Bishop. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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