Excerpt from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The White Lady

A Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear X
The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 336 pages

    Mar 12, 2024, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Although Rose had never heard a word pass the woman's lips, she must have said something to someone, because she went into the village every few days. Rose noticed that as soon as the woman saw her emerging from the cottage or walking along the road toward her, she would adjust her hat as if to hide her face under the wide brim, then pull up the collar of her dark-grey mackintosh and walk on, for all the world as if Rose were invisible. But Rose persisted because she wanted to greet her neighbors; after all, for a London girl it could be lonely in the country if you didn't know people.

"Good morning," she would say, hoping the woman would look up.

Nothing. Never a reply. Never a smile, though once or twice there was a nod on those days when it appeared as if the woman had seen Rose. And perhaps that was it—she was so deep in thought, she hadn't heard a thing.

Then one day, as the White lady approached, little Susie took the initiative. Rose thanked the house, as usual, and as she turned around to open the gate and step out onto the road, she saw the woman just a few steps away. Susie beamed a smile, waving Teddy One Eye as if determined to gain the White lady's attention.

"Hello quiet lady," Susie had said, before Rose could even open her mouth, then threw Teddy One Eye in the woman's direction. Susie's babyish effort at communication came out as "Hayo kite yadey."

The woman stopped, picked up the toy and looked down at Susie as if she were taking in her blond curls, scarlet rosebud lips and that little nub of a nose with its liberal smattering of freckles. Susie reached forward, fists opening and closing in anticipation of Teddy's return.

"Well, good morning to you, Miss Susan Mackie," said the woman as she brushed a few fallen leaves from Teddy One Eye before handing him back to the child.

She smiled and nodded, bidding Rose a good morning before continuing on her way.

Rose watched her walk away until she turned right to step over the stile that gave way to a narrow path leading into the densest part of Denbury Forest. Rose was perplexed. The woman knew Susie's name.

I can't say I know much about the woman," said Mrs. Wicks, sitting at the farmhouse kitchen table with Susie on her knee while Rose finished mopping the floor.

"She lives along the road, doesn't she?"

"Hmmm, yes—in a 'grace-and-favor' house. There's a few around here, though that's a nice one. Big garden, and apparently she does it all herself. She doesn't have a daily going in to clean either, and that's unusual for a woman of her sort."

"Grace-and-favor?" Rose squeezed out the mop.

"You know—belongs to the crown, just like the forest here. They give these estate houses to people highly thought of, people who've done something for the country—a sort of favor granted by the grace of the monarch, or something like that. It's a bit like you having a tied cottage because Jim works here on the farm—mind you, your little cottage isn't like her nice big one. A person with a grace-and-favor home can live in the house until their life's end, because they served the crown."

"Did she work for the government?"

Mrs. Wicks shrugged. "She was probably a lady-in-waiting, or a private secretary to the king. Mind you, she's a clever one, is Miss White."

"That's really her name then—Miss White?"

"Miss Elinor White. And like I said, very acute she is. Mrs. Marchant told me that a couple of weeks ago, there she was at the back of the queue at the butcher shop, and Mr. Hatcher, the butcher, was weighing up some bacon for Mrs. Larch. Well, he does his usual, you know, puts the bacon on the scale, then does his little flourish with another rasher, winks and says, 'A bit over for you, Mrs. Larch.' He does that for everybody, so we think he's generous going over on the ration, but of course we still have to pay for it."

Excerpted from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear. Copyright © 2023 by Jacqueline Winspear. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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