Excerpt from In Memoriam by Alice Winn, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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In Memoriam

A Novel

by Alice Winn

In Memoriam by Alice Winn X
In Memoriam by Alice Winn
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 400 pages

    Mar 19, 2024, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Ellwood was a prefect, so his room that year was a splendid one, with a window that opened onto a strange outcrop of roof. He was always scrambling around places he shouldn't. It was Gaunt, however, who truly loved the roof perch. He liked watching boys dipping in and out of Fletcher Hall to pilfer biscuits, prefects swanning across the grass in Court, the organ master coming out of Chapel. It soothed him to see the school functioning without him, and to know that he was above it.

Ellwood also liked to sit on the roof. He fashioned his hands into guns and shot at the passers-by.

"Bloody Fritz! Got him in the eye! Take that home to the Kaiser!"

Gaunt, who had grown up summering in Munich, did not tend to join in these soldier games.

Balancing The Preshutian on his knee as he turned the page, Gaunt finished reading the last "In Memoriam." He had known seven of the nine boys killed. The longest "In Memoriam" was for Clarence Roseveare, the older brother of one of Ellwood's friends. As to Gaunt's own friend—and enemy—Cuthbert-Smith, a measly paragraph had sufficed to sum him up. Both boys, The Preshutian assured him, had died gallant deaths. Just like every other Preshute student who had been killed so far in the War.

"Pow!" muttered Ellwood beside him. "Auf Wiedersehen!"

Gaunt took a long drag of his cigarette and folded up the paper.

"They've got rather more to say about Roseveare than about Cuthbert-Smith, haven't they?"

Ellwood's guns turned back to hands. Nimble, long-fingered, ink-stained.

"Yes," he said, patting his hair absentmindedly. It was dark and unruly. He kept it slicked back with wax, but lived in fear of a stray curl coming unfixed and drawing the wrong kind of attention to himself. "Yes, I thought that was a shame."

"Shot in the stomach!" Gaunt's hand went automatically to his own. He imagined it opened up by a streaking piece of metal. Messy.

"Roseveare's cut up about his brother," said Ellwood. "They were awfully close, the three Roseveare boys."

"He seemed all right in the dining hall."

"He's not one to make a fuss," said Ellwood, frowning. He took Gaunt's cigarette, scrupulously avoiding touching Gaunt's hand as he did so. Despite Ellwood's tactile relationship with his other friends, he rarely laid a finger on Gaunt unless they were play-fighting. Gaunt would have died rather than let Ellwood know how it bothered him.

Ellwood took a drag and handed the cigarette back to Gaunt.

"I wonder what my 'In Memoriam' would say," he mused.

" 'Vain boy dies in freak umbrella mishap. Investigations pending.' "

"No," said Ellwood. "No, I think something more like 'English literature today has lost its brightest star . . . !' " He grinned at Gaunt, but Gaunt did not smile back. He still had his hand on his stomach, as if his guts would spill out like Cuthbert-Smith's if he moved it. He saw Ellwood take this in.

"I'd write yours, you know," said Ellwood, quietly.

"All in verse, I suppose."

"Of course. As Tennyson did, for Arthur Hallam."

Ellwood frequently compared himself to Tennyson and Gaunt to Tennyson's closest friend. Mostly, Gaunt found it charming, except when he remembered that Arthur Hallam had died at the age of twenty-two and Tennyson had spent the next seventeen years writing grief poetry. Then Gaunt found it all a bit morbid, as if Ellwood wanted him to die, so that he would have something to write about.

Gaunt had kneed Cuthbert-Smith in the stomach, once. How different did a bullet feel from a blow?

"Your sister thought Cuthbert-Smith was rather good-looking," said Ellwood. "She told me at Lady Asquith's, last summer."

"Did she?" asked Gaunt, unenthusiastically. "Awfully nice of her to confide in you like that."

"Maud's A1," said Ellwood, standing abruptly. "Capital sort of girl." A bit of slate crumbled under his feet and fell to the ground, three stories below.

Excerpted from In Memoriam by Alice Winn. Copyright © 2023 by Alice Winn. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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