Today it’s my turn to host the blog tour for Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne. I have an extract for you to read and a competition to enter so you have the chance to win your very own signed copy of this fantastic novel.
Here is a little bit about Walking Wounded to give you an idea of the story before you head on down and read the extract.
Born at the end of the First World War, a young girl struggles to find her own identity in her big family and is pushed into a stormy marriage through a terrible misunderstanding from which her pride refuses to let her back down. As her own personal world begins to crumble, the foundation of the world around her is shaken as Germany once again declares war and her brothers and young husband sign up with the first wave of volunteers.
Walking Wounded tells the story of those left behind in a Blitz-ravaged London, and of the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shapes the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as the war draws to a close.
Spanning the period from the Armistice of the First World War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, Walking Wounded is a family saga whose internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.
To read the previous extract, you can pop over to Jen Med’s Book Reviews
1918 London 11 a.m.
Florence Johnson stood stiffly to attention, clutching the hand of her eldest daughter, Edie, as she listened to the bells pealing out the Armistice on that cold, wintry morning. As the sound of the last chime died away, it seemed that all of London erupted at last into cheers, the sounds of laughter and joy mingling with the echoes of the great bells. Feeling disoriented and utterly disconnected with the crowd surging around them, Florence half-turned towards Edie, immediately saw the tears running down her cheeks and pulled her close, hugging her tightly. The eldest of her children, barely twenty but old beyond her years, Edie had grown up so much during this seemingly endless war, and with both of them bereft of their menfolk they had become more like sisters as they leaned on each other’s quiet strength to look after the family together. ‘So what happens now, Mum?’ Edie asked distantly, like Florence, removed from the jostle and raucous noise surrounding them. Florence let out the breath she realised she had been holding with a sigh, hugging her close as if she were still a child. ‘We wait for them to come home, love,’ she replied, ‘then we can start looking after them again.’
In the confusion and euphoria of the next few days and weeks, the troops began to arrive home, spilling out of ferries and trains in a long, exhausted line. They were met with tears and laughter, by women who loved them and children who barely knew them. Their exuberance, their noise and boisterous jokes were a thin veneer over the pain and sadness etched on their young faces, and for many, as soon as they were away from the camaraderie of their units, that veneer would begin to crack under the strain. Florence and Edie had to endure another two weeks before their men came home. William came first, arriving at the station from where he had left, where Florence had stood desperately swallowing back her treacherous tears four long, painful years before. As she stood on the platform, trying hard not to allow herself to glance at the clock again, Florence let her mind wander back to that day, and the days just before when her husband first told her he was volunteering to fight. Oh, she had been so angry with William when he’d signed up, and yet so proud! He had gone alone to do it, then came straight home afterwards with a face so full of emotion she had known what he’d done before he’d spoken. She remembered sadly how she had wept then, and railed at him, her rage that he could do this without consulting her bubbling over. The children, just Edie, Reggie, and Bert in those days, sat frozen with fear, staring at her with shocked eyes; they had never seen her lose her temper, she rarely even raised her voice to them, and never, ever, her hand. Eventually, William stopped her protests and torrent of fury simply, with a hard hug and a kiss. Then pulled away from her and looked at her directly, and she saw the iron determination written in his face, her heart sinking as she recognised the depth of his commitment.
‘You know I have to do this, you know we all do.’ And that was that. No more discussion, his fate and hers sealed with his signature on a scrap of paper, taken the King’s shilling like so many men before him. And yet that night, despite her anger and her fear, her pride for him came through and she welcomed him to bed with open arms and forgave him with her loving body. Florence smiled fondly at her memories then; she had known immediately that she was pregnant again, in fact she had prayed she was, as she waved him off that hot morning in July. That was Lydia, her beautiful but tough little daughter, and carrying her had helped distract her from the news from the Front, had kept her occupied with the relentless business of caring for and feeding a newborn as well as keeping the house going for the older children. William had only seen Lydia once, she thought sadly, a twinge of apprehension gripping her heart, and he may not even know about the life blossoming within her, and suddenly she spread her hands protectively over her swollen stomach, unconsciously mimicking the actions of four years ago when she had seen him off to war. She wasn’t sure if any of her letters had got to him in the past few months, she had heard nothing and she doubted suddenly if he even knew of this baby’s existence. This pregnancy had been another precious gift, another blessing borne of passion for her brave, exhausted husband who had come home on leave earlier this year and loved her as if he feared he would never see her again. He had missed so much, she realised suddenly, had been away so long, and her heart began to race in panic that they might never fill the gaps between them. That he would never feel her despair when she had sat up, night after night, spooning boiled beef broth into little Lydia when her milk dried up, too poor to afford a wet-nurse and with no one to ask for advice. That he would never understand her pride that, despite the endless miscarriages – she closed her eyes sharply to block those memories – she had borne four children and lost none. And all of a sudden, the waiting was over. As she opened her eyes, Florence saw him stepping down from the train, her daydream and reality meeting with a discordant clash. Her husband, her William, so familiar yet hauntingly different, walking haltingly along the platform with his eyes fixed on hers, his eyes fixed upon a vision from another world, another lifetime. Florence felt her heart pounding in her chest, knew she had just the fraction of a moment to make everything all right. ‘Hello, love,’ she said, looking steadily at him, bravely tilting her chin up to meet his gaze, hoping desperately that it would be enough to make it as it should be. And wordlessly, he opened his arms and swept her up in them, clutching her to him as though his life depended on it. Florence was horrified to feel the lack of substance to him, the frailty of a man who had been pushed too far for too long, and pulled herself away to look him in the eye, appalled to note the yellow pallor of the whites as she did so. He backed away then, shaking his head defensively. ‘Don’t ask me about it, Florence. Don’t ever, ever ask me.’ And as they turned to leave the platform, Florence felt a cold dread threatening to engulf her aching heart, as icy and chilling as the London fog swirling about them as their feet marked the well-worn but suddenly unfamiliar path for home. And walking without touching, she understood with bitter clarity that this shocking silence was to envelop and separate them, like so many others of their time, for the rest of their lives.
The next installment can be found at The Stationery Geekette
You can pop over and check out all the other blogs on the Walking Wounded tour shown below.
You have the chance to win 1 of 2 personalised signed copies of Walking Wounded. All you have to do is fill in the rafflecopter below to enter.
*I was given a copy of Walking Wounded in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate links which means I receive a little back if you choose to buy. The winners of the giveaway will be contacted by @emmamitchellfpr for delivery.