"This heartbreaking story of forbidden love is very good indeed." —Bookseller
Clover's Childby Amanda Prowse
When eighteen-year-old Dot meets Sol, she feels that love has arrived at last. Solomon Arbuthnott is a man who can bring color and warmth to her drab life in sixties London—and what's more, he is a young, handsome soldier with excellent prospects. Someone who wants to give her everything she has dreamed of. Someone who can promise her blue skies, laughter, sun, and always, always love. And for a while, life is truly like a song. They stroll hand-in-hand by the Serpentine, dance cheek-to-cheek in Soho's smoky bars, and begin to plan their idyllic future, growing old together in Sol's ancestral home on the island of St. Lucia. But this is 1961. East End girls don't date West Indian boys, let alone fall in love with them and leave the country. They stay at home and live the life their parents planned for them. Even if it leaves them lonelier than they ever thought possible. Even if it rips their heart in two . . .
"This heartbreaking story of forbidden love is very good indeed." —Bookseller
Read an Excerpt
By Amanda Prowse
Head of Zeus LtdCopyright © 2013 Amanda Prowse
All rights reserved.
It was cold, the pavement was covered with a sugar-like dusting of frost and the January wind that blew off the water felt like it could cut your cheeks. A large ship painted gun-metal grey was moored against the jetty and its unwieldy hawser stirred and scraped against the wall as the Lightermen's barge made the water swell. The clouds were dark and threatened to burst at any moment. Dot Simpson and Barbara Harrison perched on the flat-topped bollards that stood in rows along the brow of the dock, just as they did in all weathers, in all seasons. When they were little, they had invented elaborate games using the bollards as everything from safe posts during battle to chairs at imaginary tea parties. Now in their late teens, they were more likely to be found sitting there with their faces covered in baby oil, holding up tin-foil reflectors to catch the sun's rays. Tonight, however, they pulled their cardigan sleeves down over their hands and with shoulders hunched forward shouted to each other as their voices navigated the wind.
'I'm bloody freezing!'
'Me too! Dot, look – my fag's stuck to my lip!' Barb opened her mouth wide, to show her mate that her roll-up was indeed hanging free of assistance from her gob. They laughed loudly. This wasn't unusual, they laughed at most things, sometimes because they were funny, but mainly because the two of them were young and free and life was pretty good.
A sailor waved from the deck and the girls waved back before collapsing in giggles. He looked foreign in his dark, woolly cap and double-buttoned pea jacket. He ran up the deck towards them and as nimbly as his heavy boots would allow, clambered up the metal ladder and onto the wharf.
'Shit! He's coming over!'
Barb yanked her fag from her lip and threw it into the wind, where it was carried along a few feet before getting lodged in Dot's hair.
'Jesus! What you trying to do, set me barnet on fire?'
As Dot beat her head with her palms to extinguish any potential flames, her friend sat doubled over on her bollard stool and laughed until she cried. By the time sailor boy reached them, they were slightly more composed. Close up, neither of them fancied him, which was a bitter disappointment to all.
'Hallo!' His voice had the low staccato tones of the Baltics.
Barb waved at him.
'I am new here for some days and would like very much to take you ladies for drink.'
'We don't drink.' Barb looked away from him, tried to sound dismissive.
'What are your names?'
'I'm Connie Francis and this is Grace Kelly.' Dot fixed him with a stare.
'It's nice to see you Connie and Grace, I am Rudolf Nureyev.' Three could play at that game. 'Maybe I take you not for drink, maybe I take you for movies?'
The girls stood and linked arms. Dot cleared her throat. 'That's very kind, Mr Nickabollockoff, but we've got to get home for our tea!'
The two girls ran past him along the dock, laughing and howling, shouting 'GracebloodyKelly?' at each other as they trotted along, homeward bound.
Half an hour later, the Simpsons' front door bell buzzed. Its grating drone was pitiful, like a bee in its dying throes. 'Coming!' shouted Dot, sing-song fashion, casting the word over her shoulder in the direction of the hallway, once again making a mental note that the bell needed fixing. She would ask her dad to have a look at it.
Dot licked the stray blobs of sweet strawberry jam from the pads of her thumbs, smiled and looped her toffee-coloured hair behind her ears. It was probably Barb. Either she'd decided to come round to the Simpson household for her tea after all, or she'd locked herself out of her own house. She felt a swell of happiness.
The front door bell droned again.
'All right! All right!' Dot tossed the checked tea towel onto the work surface and walked past her dad, who was engrossed in his newspaper as usual. She stepped into the hallway, with its narrow strip of patterned carpet, and walked past the glass-fronted unit in which her mum displayed her entire collection of china Whimsies. Looking through the etched glass panels in the door, opaque through design and a lack of regular dusting, she saw her mum staring back at her through the glass in a peering salute. Spying Dot, her mum tapped impatiently at the space on her wrist where a watch would live.
Dot eased open the front door and her mum bustled in from the pavement, filling the narrow hallway with her presence. She used the toe of her right shoe against the heel of her left to ease her foot out of its pump and then reversed the process before stamping her cold feet on the floor and wiggling her stockinged toes. She dumped her shopping bag by the door and shook her arms loose from her mac, making her ample chest jiggle under her chin, then whipped her chiffon scarf from around her neck and rubbed her hands together.
'Blimey, Dot, take your time why don't you. I forgot me key and it's bloody freezing. I've only got a little while to get changed and get back to work!'
'I was just making some toast, do you want some?'
'No, love, I've been surrounded by grub all day, I couldn't face anything. Eat quickly, mind. Don't forget you're coming in with me tonight.'
Dot groaned as she sloped off towards the kitchen. 'Do I have to?'
'I'm not even going to answer that. Do me a favour, Dot, stick the kettle on!' This was code for make me a cup of tea.
Joan watched her daughter tease her roots with her index finger and thumb pinched together. 'You'll never get a brush through that!'
Dot chose to ignore her mum; she wasn't particularly bothered if she never brushed her hair again as long as it was bouffant enough at the back. She yanked the lid from the large, dented, flat-bottomed aluminium kettle, filled it with water and plonked it on top of the gas cooker. As she waited for the whistle, she walked through to the adjoining back room, her hand now pressed flat against her forehead and her arm sticking out at a right angle. 'Mum, do I really have to come to work with you tonight?'
Joan sank down into the chair across from her husband's and delved into her make-up bag. She juggled the magnifying mirror in her left palm and her mascara in her right. She spat onto the cracked cake of black until some of it stuck to the clogged bristles of the brush and proceeded to comb it onto her lashes. She spoke with her lips tucked in, trying to keep her eyes still.
'Yes, you do have to come with me! It's not as though I ask much of you, Dot and not as if anything you might have planned in your hectic schedule can't wait an hour or two!'
'But, God, it's Friday night!'
'I'm sure the Lord above knows what night it is and using his name in vain won't help you, Friday night or not! Now go and wash your face and make that tea.'
Dot trudged through the back room to the kitchen sink.
Her dad looked up from the Standard. 'Why's she got her hand stuck to her bonce?'
'She's trying to make her fringe flat.' Joan spat again onto her little brush.
Reg shrugged and shook his head with incomprehension. 'You've only been in five minutes and now you're back off to work. What time'll you finish?'
'I don't know, Reg. When it's done. I've worked bloody hard on this buffet; I hope it all goes all right. Dot better not do anything stupid.'
'Why d'you need her anyway?'
She sighed heavily. 'Oh, don't you start. I've told you, it's a big do for some new family moving into the Merchant's House, military or something, I don't bleeding know! I just know it's overtime and they are paying good wages for someone to waitress, and that someone may as well be Dot! Any more questions?'
Joan lifted the brush and started to apply the dark goo to her lower lashes.
'What's for tea?'
'What's that if it's not another question, Reg?'
'Are you asking me a question now?' He smirked.
Joan picked up the multi-coloured crocheted cushion and lobbed it at his newspaper. He ducked and the cushion thumped against the radio speaker.
'Blimey, girl, steady! You just hit Cliff Michelmore in the cakehole!'
'I'm sure he's had worse.' She giggled.
They both laughed as a slow waltz drifted into the room. Reg threw down his paper, struggled to his feet and pinged his braces over his vest, which always made his wife laugh. He hummed along as loudly as he could. 'Come on, Joan, reckon we've got five whole minutes before her fringe is flat and she's made your tea. Let's have a dance.'
He pulled his wife by the arms, she slipped from the green vinyl seat of her chair and he spun her around the back room, trying not to trip on the rug that sat on the tiled floor. Gathering her into a close waltz, he whispered into her hair, which was stiff with lacquer. 'I've just been reading about that Lady Chatterley book trial,' he said. 'It's bloody filth that they are trying to pedal, disguised as literature. It's disgusting. I've been following the case quite closely ...' He pulled her into him and they swayed around the room in an intimate clinch. She felt the scratch of his stubble against her cheek. His breath came in wheezy bursts, partly from lust and part due to his exertion. 'And I reckon we should definitely get a copy!'
'Oh, behave!' Joan pushed him away, glancing at the cuckoo clock on the wall. 'Gawd, look at the time. Dot!' she yelled in the direction of the kitchen. 'Forget the tea. Come on, we've got to leave right now or we'll miss the bus!'
Dot came in, leading her little sister by the arm, who sported a large orange stain on her white frock. 'She's had an unfortunate incident with a Jubbly. Over to you, Dad!'
'Oh for Gawd's sake, Diane – you're supposed to drink it, not bloody wear it! What are you, a baby? Do we need to put your drinks in a bot bot?'
Dee grinned. 'No! I'm five, I not a baby!'
Reg looked at his wife and eldest daughter as they buttoned up their macs and tied their scarves. 'Is that it then? Are you two off gallivanting and leaving me to it?'
'Looks like it.' His wife smiled as she pecked him on the cheek.
'But this is women's work! And you never did tell me what was for tea.'
'That, my darling, is cos I don't know what will be left over tonight. Might be salad, might be steak! Who knows?'
'Yeah!' Dot added, for no reason other than to join in the fun.
'And you can keep your oar out of it. And by the way, Dot, your fringe n'arf looking curly!'
Dot's parting shot was to poke her tongue out at her dad.
'If the wind changes you'll be stuck like that!' He laughed.
'Oh, well, that explains it; is that what happened to you then?' She managed to have the last word, this time.
The kitten heels of mother and daughter clicked their way along the Limehouse pavement.
'You working tonight, Joan?'
Their neighbour, Mrs Harrison, leant heavily against her open front door. She took a deep drag on her John Player Special, the smoke from which swirled upwards, further discolouring the yellow fringe that she kept permanently wrapped in two plastic curlers, imprisoned behind a blue hair net. Mrs Harrison ran the grandly named 'Ropemakers Fields Guest House', which for a couple of quid a night provided a bedroom full of clashing florals and mismatched furniture and use of a Goblin Teasmade for weary dock workers who were far from home. Her tall, thin, stooped frame was clad, as usual, in a flowery wrap-around pinny. Her mouth curved into its familiar downward slant and her eyes roamed over Joan and Dot with the usual look of sour disappointment. Dot used to wonder what it would be like if Mrs Harrison ever received some good news – which hadn't happened in all the years she had known her. Would she whoop, shout and yell? She thought not. Dot peeked through the door to the grotty boarding house; it always looked dark and gave off the faintest odour of boiled cabbage. Their neighbour stood with one arm across her flat chest and the other lifting her fag to her thin lips.
'Yes, Mrs Harrison, unfortunately. No rest for the wicked!' Joan hurried past, not wanting to engage any further than she had to.
'That's what they say,' Mrs Harrison replied.
Dot found Mrs Harrison's company boring and depressing, but she was her best mate's aunty, so she had to be careful.
'You seeing our Barb later, Dot? I've got her mum's Avon catalogue here that wants collecting. I'm running low on me night cream.'
Her skin was pitted, furrowed and a little grimy. Dot thought that it would take more than a jar of night cream. 'I might be, I'll tell her when I see her.'
'Thanks, love.' A smile threatened to crease her face but was gone before it was fully formed. Audrey Harrison did not have much to smile about. Her life had been a series of disappointments, starting with the feckless, unfaithful husband that had gone and got himself killed in the war. Although, strangely, once he was dead, his fecklessness and infidelity seemed to have been quite forgotten. As Dot's nan once pointed out, they never seem to bury any crap or useless husbands, only the 'loving and devoted' ones, if the gravestones in the churchyard were anything to go by.
'She's such a nosey old cow,' Joan whispered. The two women laughed as they quickened their pace towards Narrow Street. Just in time to see their bus pulling up to the kerb. Dot screamed and ran ahead, waving her arms and running as fast as she was able in her silly heels on the icy pavement. The conductor waved back and waited until mother and daughter, their faces flushed, had plonked themselves down on the narrow seat that ran along the side of the bottom deck. They laughed as their breath blew clouds into the number 278 that would take them up the road.
Joan Simpson licked her fingers, then wiped them down the front of her starched white pinny, leaving a long smear of mayonnaise across her front. Her mouth mumbled with the inaudible calculations that ensured her pastry always puffed to perfection and her aspic chilled to a fine wobble.
'Tenminutesmoreshoulddoit, thenicanplateitup, getitall out ...'
She blew her blunt fringe upwards and wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. Her eyes darted between her daughter, who was standing in front of her, fiddling with the collar of her white blouse and pulling and twisting at her black pinafore, and the plate of devilled eggs that she now arranged with deft fingers on the counter top.
'Right, love, listen. The main buffet is all laid out on the trestle in the corner; everyone will help themselves a bit later on. Serviettes, plates and whatnot are already on the table. Just keep an eye out, make sure that no platters run empty, we can refill them in here. Look for anyone that's missing a serviette or cutlery, that kind of thing. You know what's what; it's not as if you haven't done it before. These are just bits to pass around until they eat proper, so let's get them out there and served or they'll be on the turn and I haven't been slaving away all day in this bloody kitchen so that you can ruin my food!'
'I hate doing this, Mum!'
'Really? You haven't mentioned it.'
'It's just so embarrassing. They're always old-timers who smell like lavender and tell me how lucky I am to be a teenager now and not twenty years ago. I know I'm lucky, I don't need reminding by some stinky pensioner every five minutes.'
'Dot, please, just shut up and take the bloody food in!'
'I am! It's just so unfair and anyway, in three years I'll be twenty-one and then I'll be free to do what I bloody want.'
Joan dipped into the metal tray under the counter top and lifted a large serving spoon in her direction. 'Oi! Less of the "bloody", missus. Until you are actually twenty-one, you are not too old for a ladling!'
'A ladling? You just made that up! And you say "bloody" all the time!' Dot concentrated on her outstretched arm, grappling with the wide silver platter that threatened to slide off the folded white linen cloth on which it sat.
'Yes I do, because I can, and when you're as old as me you can swear as much as you like. In the meantime, get that food out!'
Dot drew a deep breath and faced the double swing door that would reveal her in all her shame to the awaiting guests. 'I'm never going to be old,' she offered over her shoulder.
'You're right, Dot. If you carry on defying me and those canapés spoil, you won't make twenty-one – I'll bloody kill ya!'
Excerpted from Clover's Child by Amanda Prowse. Copyright © 2013 Amanda Prowse. Excerpted by permission of Head of Zeus Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Amanda Prowse is the author of the bestselling What Have I Done?, as well as A Little Love and Something Quite Beautiful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The LAST line of this book will blow you away. As you follow Dot through the one of the hardest, scariest, darkest years of her life you will ache for her, cry with her and want so desperately to help her. This is a story about love, the love between a young couple, who should have everything to look forward to together. They talk about their future together in longing detail, the promises made from one to the other, the commitment to always be together. It should be so simple.... Sadly it is everything but. This is a story of a white girl from a poor family living in London who falls for a black boy who is visiting with his rich, powerful family from an island paradise in the 1960's. You will see how family can be so cruel and hateful, how the older adults how you are suppose to look up to can be so narrow minded and beyond selfish. You will see how money and the color of a persons skin rule over everything else. You will see a young woman broken beyond repair .... but is she ? This may sound like a bad story and a book you do not want to read but I guarantee that you will be thoroughly captivated and when you read the last line, it will all fall into perspective.
Claps a little. "Great* she calls.