Excerpt from The Colony by Audrey Magee, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Colony

A Novel

by Audrey Magee

The Colony by Audrey Magee X
The Colony by Audrey Magee
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  • Published:
    May 2022, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Amanda Ellison
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Print Excerpt

The Colony

He handed the easel to the boatman, reaching down the pier wall towards the sea.

Have you got it?

I do, Mr Lloyd.

His brushes and paints were in a mahogany chest wrapped in layers of thick, white plastic. He carried the chest to the edge of the pier.

This one is heavy, he said.

It'll be grand, Mr Lloyd. Pass it down.

He knelt on the concrete and slid the chest down the wall towards the boatman, the white plastic slipping under his fingers.

I can't hold it, he said.

Let it go, Mr Lloyd.

He sat on his heels and watched the boatman tuck the chest and easel under the seat near the prow, binding each to the other with lurid blue string.

Are they secure?

They're grand, Mr Lloyd.

I hope they're secure.

As I said, they're grand.

He stood up and brushed the dust and dirt from his trousers. The boatman lifted his arm, offering his hand.

Just yourself then, Mr Lloyd, sir.

Lloyd nodded. He handed his canvas pack to the boatman and stepped cautiously onto the ladder set into the crumbling pier.

Turn around, Mr Lloyd. Your back to me.

He looked down, at the small boat, at the sea. He hesitated. Stalled.

You'll be grand, Mr Lloyd.

He turned and dropped his right leg to search for the first step beneath him, his hands gripping the rusting metal as his leg dangled, his eyes shut tight, against the possibilities

of catching skin

cutting fingers

blemishing hands

of slipping

on steps

coated in seaweed and slime

of falling

falling into the sea

The step is under you, Mr Lloyd.

I can't find it.

Relax your knee, Mr Lloyd. Reach.

I can't.

You'll be grand.

He dropped his knee and found the step. He paused, gripping still to the ladder.

Only two steps left, Mr Lloyd.

He moved his hands down the ladder, then his legs. He stopped on the third step. He looked down, at the gap between his feet and the low-lying boat.

It's too far.

Just reach with your leg, Mr Lloyd.

Lloyd shook his head, his body. He looked down again, at his backpack, his easel, his chest of paints bound already to the journey across the sea in a handmade boat. He dropped his right leg, then his left, but clung still to the ladder.

self-portrait I: falling

self-portrait II: drowning

self-portrait III: disappearing

self-portrait IV: under the water

self-portrait V: the disappeared

Let go, Mr Lloyd.

I can't.

You'll be grand.

He crashed into the boat, tipping it to one side, soaking his trousers, his boots and socks, water seeping between his toes as the boatman pumped his right leg against the swirl of sea splashing over the top of the boat, his leg feverish until the currach was again balanced. The boatman bent forward, to rest on his knees. He was panting.

My feet are wet.

You're lucky it's only your feet, Mr Lloyd.

The boatman pointed at the stern.

Go and sit down, Mr Lloyd.

But my feet are wet.

The boatman stilled his breath.

That's boats for you, Mr Lloyd.

Lloyd shuffled towards the back of the boat, hanging from the boatman's callused hands as he turned to sit on a narrow, splintered plank.

I hate wet feet, he said.

He reached his hands towards the boatman.

I'll take my backpack now. Thank you.

The boatman handed him his pack and Lloyd placed it on his knees, away from the water sloshing still about the bottom of the boat.

I won't object if you change your mind, Mr Lloyd. And I'll not charge you. Not all of it, anyway.

I'll carry on as planned, thank you.

It's not common any more. To cross like this.

I'm aware of that.

And it can be a hard crossing.

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Excerpted from The Colony by Audrey Magee. Copyright © 2022 by Audrey Magee. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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