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Excerpt from Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Ellie and the Harpmaker

by Hazel Prior

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior X
Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
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    Aug 2019, 336 pages

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I stuff the letter into the recycling bin, but the terrible images stay with me. Suddenly I'm weary. I switch on the radio for some light relief. Only to be regaled by a story about female genital mutilation. Clive makes a face. I switch the radio off again.

All those people suffering in the world. And here I am fretting about an overly generous gift.

I picture the harp, the beautiful harp, my harp. Dan was adamant. He said it would sit there unplayed forever.

Unless I came back to play it.

Decisions stress me out. It's much easier when I'm in a situation where I can just mold myself to somebody else's will. But now Clive's will and Dan's will keep pulling me in opposite directions.

I think about my parents, whose iron rule dominated my life for so many years. My mother would have disapproved in the days when she understood such things, there's no doubt about that. She disapproved of pretty much everything. And my father, who died a year ago today? What would he have made of my harp quandary? The earlier version of himself would have been strict and sensible, but the later, iller, more pensive, more lovable version—the version who told me to pick a dream and follow it? I can't be sure.

Perhaps it's not so much the harp as Dan himself who is the issue.

Because Dan is a man. What manner of man, I ask myself. A startlingly handsome one—I could hardly fail to notice that. But what sort of person is he? Certainly not the sort I'm used to.

While Dan was busy making sandwiches I'd taken the chance to nose around the Harp Barn. As well as the harps themselves, the place was overrun with sawdust—mounds of it on the floor and little fragments floating around in the air. Bits of lichen, fir cones and feathers also seemed to be scattered around in random places. Shining pennies were laid out on the windowsills in long, snaking lines. Behind them were glass dishes filled with pebbles. The workbench was stacked with tools and finely penciled diagrams. I'd also noticed, hanging above the workbench, a large corkboard covered with photos. Photos of women. They were all attractive and mostly young. Some were posing with harps; all were very much posing. In the center was a blonde with a low-cut top and stunning blue eyes.

"Ellie, look at you! You're miles away! Still fantasizing about becoming a harpist?"

"Not at all," I reply, blushing and springing to action. I start opening cupboards, hunting for ingredients. "I think I'll get straight on with the supper. Spicy Bolognese all right?"

"Yum! That'll be great!"

I manage to find an onion. I cut it in half and start peeling off the skin.

Can it be that Dan is a very clever actor, a man who seduces vulnerable women—by giving them harps? It seems absurd, but perhaps Clive is right. Perhaps I should be careful.

"Ahhh, that's better." Clive sighs, a smile spreading across his face after a long draft from his beer bottle. "Give me a shout if you need a hand, El. I'll be in the sitting room."

He disappears and I hear the sounds of the telly being switched on, followed by a roar from fans. Bristol City must have scored. When Clive's finished with them, it'll be a repeat of Doctor Who. After that, spicy Bolognese cooked by the wife. I hope the Bolognese will turn out all right. The wife is finding it extremely hard to concentrate.

Excerpted from Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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