from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 22 August 2011

'IMAGO' opening chapter

In celebration of finally getting round to picking up the abandoned 3rd novel I began to write in 1997, I thought I'd post here the opening chapter of Imago, my 1st novel, that came out earlier this year. (Yes of course I'm hoping to tempt you into buying it! Link to the right...)

PS Later: it's a strange thing seeing your creative work in this medium. Looking back at this chapter this evening, I see that this is a shocking opening – and want to reassure you (if you're like me, anyway) that it's atypical of the book in general – though there is some hard stuff later, too, with the Cathar persecution, admittedly.



It didn’t start as a love story. It started with an ending.

In the chasm between waking and sleeping, life and death, she relives it over and over, unable to pull herself free.
  There’s the still May evening, fat-bellied moon sliding inauspiciously across Pluto’s trajectory, and in the distance the murmur of the Torridge; or maybe it’s the light wind rising in the birches. An east wind, its skirts full of unease and conflict, billowing up from nowhere suddenly, setting the horses in the neighbouring field skittering, the hares leaping through tight bronze fiddleheads of bracken.
  The air suddenly green with fear, then pricking with hate, ready to combust.  
  Anger. Her words, each one poison-tipped, aimed at the heart. Greg’s eyes, glittering under the moon, pale as frogspawn. His fingers yanking at the sleeves of her silk summer dress, tearing.
  The car accelerating out of the drive in second gear, spitting gravel, away from the little white town, away from the party, roaring up the hill back towards Exeter.
            The dress gaping like a wound and Annie’s hip aching from half stumbling half being pushed into the car, banged against the jamb. His cheek swelling and a sour odour coming off him. Her hand stinging. She can’t believe this is happening, this conflict; can’t believe it. Once there was love. Once she loved him; they loved each other. How long ago?
            There’s the briefest comfort of horse sweat through the open window, then the saltmud tang of estuary; then only diesel and burning rubber. The engine shrieking.
            Truck lights around a right hand bend and Greg swerving.
            In its moment of unfolding the present becomes the past and, as history, is always fiction. So later she questions, over and over, did she imagine it? What is real? Because here, in this present moment, terribly, terrifyingly, Greg seems to throw the car to the right, straight at the offside corner of the lorry’s bonnet.
            The instant before the impact stretching on and on, dreadful, soundless, tunnel-dark, empty, eternal.
            The moment exploding around them.
            She thinks she hears his neck snap, a sound like distant gunshot, chilling; then his face fading away as she slides beneath dark waters; but his mouth pursuing her, open, in shock, in agony, in triumph even.
In the hospital bed her broken body convulses and she cries out; and again, as she will later in the camper van in her lover’s arms; then alone on a frozen March mountainside, suspended between centuries; and as she will, again and again, in the lonely ebb of l’Estang des Sangliers, where the square stone house fills up night after night with voices, trapping her in its unending darkness like one of the haunted boggy bottomless pools high on the Dartmoor of her childhood, in which she fears she may drown.

© Roselle Angwin 1994/2011


  1. yes, it is a shocking opening, but it nicely sets up the rest of the novel: suspended between centuries, and in border country. And it made me want to research more about the Cathars.


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