Many thanks to Zoe and Spellbound Books for having me on Rebecca Mascull’s blog tour today, where I will be sharing an extract from her new novel, ‘The Seamstress of Warsaw’. But first, here is a little bit more about the book:
A man learns a shocking truth about his past.
A mother writes a diary as the ghetto walls go up.
From the bombed streets of London, to occupied Warsaw, to the Polish forests bristling with partisans, will their paths cross?
Will their pasts be reconciled?
And will they survive the deadly assaults on their freedom and their lives?
THE SEAMSTRESS OF WARSAW is a tale of endurance and loss, family and blood, stories and histories, that questions the nature of who we are and where we are going, when the road ahead is burning.
It was a beautiful Saturday, hot sun and pure sky. At three o’clock, Daniel was cycling back from the library when the air-raid siren sounded. Most in the street ignored it. Then came the heavy hum of bombers. He saw a couple of plane spotters on the roof of the nearest building, pointing into the air and blasting on their whistles. The drone became a roar and the air itself trembled.
He heard voices call to each other and the mad barking of dogs. The planes came. Leaping dots of light thickened to black spots. Dark rows filled the sky, flying in straight lines. People in the street were saying, are they British? No, they’re German, someone said. Our boys fly in Vs. How did they get through, some asked? What’s happened to the RAF, the ack-ack guns? People were shaking their fists at them, one man brandished a penknife. People were just standing and staring, hardly anyone was running. There were over a hundred planes.
Bombs began to fall. Daniel actually saw them drop. People ran and scrambled for cover, behind or beneath or beside anything they could find – a milk cart, a doorway, a policeman – more for comfort than safety. Daniel threw his bike against a wall and bolted to a shelter, filled with men and women and kids and the hot, rank smell of sweat and panic. The children whimpered and wept and everyone flinched at the explosions and clanging fire bells. Once the walls shook, the children screamed and Daniel saw huge black spiders crawl out of the cracks. People talked, about the terror of the shelter getting bombed and of being buried alive. One man said, “If I get it, I hope I cop a nice clean hit and go out like a light.” This made the children cry more and the mothers scolded him. A man appeared at the door and sat down. He wiped his brow and covered his face with shaking hands. A woman tried to soothe him, others ignored him, turned away even, as if he would infect them with fear. He spoke: “This is it! No more Phoney War! The big attack. They’re saying it’ll be every night from now on.” The mothers shushed him. A girl cried and two boys whispered. They were in there for two hours. Silently Daniel swore, he’d never to go into a shelter again.
When the All Clear sounded, it was curious how quickly they all returned to normal. Filing out of the shelter, the men argued about politics and the women about what was for tea. In the street, there were masses of people going to and fro. The air felt hot to breathe. Daniel’s nose filled with the tang of cordite. The streets were a mess of soot, brick and broken glass. The sky was tinged with red, with billowing smoke blotting out the sun. The air was alive with sparks and everyone patted them out on their clothes. There were families with cars loading up offspring and bags and driving off at speed, and people were saying, “The docks are on fire!” One man said, “Why did the poor have to get it in the neck? Why didn’t they bomb bloody Mayfair?” He watched young people running about to see the fires, rushing towards the docks. He found his bike and dashed down there. A terrible inferno – the great dock warehouses consumed by flames flaring high in the sky, furious black and orange. Dozens of firemen were working their legs off.