Book: The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower. First Published 1966 Macmillan. This edition: The Text Publishing Company – e-book.
Why: The book starts off with, “Now that your father’s gone-…’Dead,’ she corrected herself firmly…” and this is the impetus for change in the two little girls’ lives. (It’s the hook, I guess – someone has died.)
But there is a differing in responses to the news and in a few short concise paragraphs we quickly understand that the mother, the headmistress and the children all feel differently and this is emphasized by the paragraph starting with ‘A Magpie..’ with everyone going quiet for a moment as if stunned, or speechless. It’s a great lesson on how to do that.
I love that moment because the author is bestowing on the reader the intelligence to get it without explaining it and we all sit quietly for a moment understanding. (And who doesn’t like being told their intelligent.)
As a reader you are taken out of the little meeting in the head mistress’s office and zoom right out to view it from a distance and forced to slow your pace to realise the magnitude of what is being said to the children. And at the same time given more of a sense of what sort of person the mother is: ‘…or some other bush bird she hoped never to hear in town…’
( Also love that she mentions currowongs, who writes about currowongs in their writing? We used to have a currawong – his name was Colin)
‘When I’ve sold the house and found a flat in the city, ‘the girls’ mother continued, taking in the exchange of the looks dryly, ‘I’ll let Miss Lambert know.’
A magpie or a currawong, or some other bush bird she hoped never to hear in town, gave it’s careless, beautifully deliberate call from a giant blue gum in the distance outside the school grounds. (Someone sighed) Closer at hand there were energetic sounds from the tennis courts, and laughter.
p.1. The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower.