Excerpt from Farthing by Jo Walton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Jo Walton

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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 320 pages
    Aug 2007, 320 pages

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I can’t say that didn’t hurt a bit, but even as it hurt, the tiny sting of it made me realize how unimportant it really was, compared to the way I loved David. I shook my head. "Better that than not marrying David," I said.

"You know, in Germany---" Daddy began.

"But we’re not in Germany. We fought a war---you and David both fought a war---to ensure that the border of the Third Reich stops at the Channel. It always will. Germany doesn’t have anything to do with anything."

"Even in England you’ll come in for a lot of trouble, which your young man is used to but you won’t be," Daddy said. "Little things like not being allowed into clubs, big things like not being allowed to buy land. And that will come to your children. When your daughters come out, they might not be allowed to be debs and be presented, with the name Kahn."

"So much the better for them," I said, though that did shake me a little.

"There might be stings and insults you don’t expect," Daddy added.

But although he was right, I generally found I didn’t mind them, or thought them funny, whereas poor David wasn’t used to them at all, like this thing now with idiotic Angela Thirkie and her stupid assumption that anyone with a face and coloring like David’s had to be a servant. Maybe he was better able to deal with an outright snub than this kind of casual disregard.

I let my hair go, cautiously, and when it stayed up, I turned back to David. "I wanted to marry you because of you, and I’ve never given a damn about those people one way or the other and you should know that."

For a moment he kept on looking pained. Then he smiled and hugged me, and for the time being everything was all right again.

He took my hand and we walked out into the garden, where Mummy’s ghastly bash was now in full swing.

What I was thinking as we walked out there was that David and I really did have a tremendous amount in common, books and music and ways of thinking about things. I don’t mean usual ways of thinking, because I’m scatterbrained and not really very bright while David is tremendously clever, of course. But time after time we’ll come to the same conclusions about whether something is sound, starting from different places and using different methods of logic. David never bores me and he never gives me the feeling that other tremendously brainy people I’ve known have given me of leaving me streets behind. We can talk about anything, except perhaps some of the trickier bits of our own relationship. There are some things best left to the subconscious, after all, as David himself says.

I gave his hand an extra squeeze just because I loved him, and he looked down at me, for once not picking up what I meant but thinking I wanted something. So I put my face up to be kissed, and that was how we snubbed stupid insensitive Angela Thirkie, who was married to the most boring man in England, who everyone knows didn’t even want her, he wanted her sister, by kissing like newlyweds on the lawn when in fact we’d been married eight whole months and really ought to be settling down to life as old respectable married people.

But anyway, when I heard that Sir James Thirkie had been murdered, that’s the first thing I thought of, Angela Thirkie being mean to David the afternoon before, and I’m afraid the first thing to go through my mind, although fortunately I managed to catch the train before it got out of the tunnel that time so I didn’t say so, was that it well and truly served her right.


Inspector Peter Anthony Carmichael had vaguely been aware that Farthing was a country house in Hampshire; but before the murder he had only really heard of it in a political context. The Farthing Set, the newspapers would say, meaning a group of loosely connected movers and shakers, politicians, soldiers, socialites, financiers: the people who had brought peace to England. By peace was meant not Chamberlain's precarious "peace in our time" but the lasting "Peace with Honour" after we'd fought Hitler to a standstill. (The Inspector included himself in that "we", as a young lieutenant he'd been one of the last to get away from Dunkirk.) He'd cautiously welcomed the peace when it came, although at that point he'd had a sneaking fondness for crazy old Churchill's fighting rhetoric and been afraid Hitler couldn't be trusted. "This Farthing Peace isn't worth a farthing," Churchill had wheezed, and the newspapers had shown him holding up a farthing mockingly.

Copyright © 2006 by Jo Walton

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