Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Novel Moment

The beautiful weather and light today surprisingly have inspired me to share this scene from my slowly-emerging novel, which is set in the 1870s (or thereabouts).

* * *

Jacob Struggles with Adelaide’s Death

In keeping with his usual and somewhat rigid pattern of time and place, Jacob Werner is sitting in the leather chair behind the massive mahogany desk that occupies the northwest portion of his office. His wife insisted on dressing the office windows with dark, heavy draperies, but each morning Jacob pulls these shrouds back as far as he can so that the room is flooded with natural light throughout the day. This freely flowing light both makes his lawyerly tasks much easier and affords him more than a little aesthetic pleasure. In the late afternoon, when most of his work is done, Jacob normally relaxes into the sumptuous cushions of his chair, ankle crossed over thigh, hand cradling chin, eyes narrowed and lips curled upward with pleasure – what Adelaide always called his musing pose. Once situated, Jacob takes a few moments to appreciate the simple yet surpassing beauty of the office that is his sanctuary, and he savors the spectacular view from its unusually large windows. Jacob particularly loves these late-afternoon moments during the perfection of mid-September, when the oppressive heat of summer is gone but the full crispness of fall has not yet arrived and when the quality of the light is at its most indescribably beautiful.

On this particular mid-September day, the sun slants through the naked window nearest Jacob’s desk to produce a glorious symphony of light and shadow as it plays off the many books, stacks of paper, statues, artifact collections, and other precious things that make this room so beautiful and dear to its occupant. However, today this unique display of light, which normally would please Jacob so, passes completely unnoticed by him as he slumps with his aching head pressed against the chair’s generous wing. Since his wife left his office a half hour ago, all he can manage to do is stare at the crystal inkwell and pen holder on his desk – the only gift that Adelaide ever gave him.

What pleasure Margaret had taken in bringing him the news. “Well, Jacob, our Adelaide finally has succumbed. She just didn’t have the strength left to fight the consumption any longer, poor dear.” Her words ostensibly showed affection for the departed, and the hint of a smile that played on her lips after she spoke would be interpreted by almost anyone else as a stiff-lipped attempt to mask sorrow for Adelaide’s death. But Jacob knew the inner workings of his wife’s mind and how those inner workings manifested themselves outwardly, so he knew better.

Jacob held up his hand in protest as she approached the window to draw the curtains to block the path of the sun that, for her, was such an intrusion. “Leave me in peace, Margaret,” Jacob dismissed his wife wearily, as he rose to stop the simple wooden mantel clock and adjust the hands to what he understood to be the moment of Adelaide’s death.

After his wife nodded curtly and brushed hastily by him to honor this request, Jacob returned to the refuge of his chair. Although Adelaide’s death had been expected for some time, Jacob found that he nonetheless was unprepared to face the finality associated with its occurrence. The light that he loved most in the world had departed, and Jacob would now begin the long and arduous process of adjusting to a world left in a substantially darker condition. So it was that Jacob passed this beautiful September afternoon grasping for some insight about what to do next, for some trick of the mind that might possibly assuage his sorrow, if only for the briefest time.

* * *


Barbara said...

Adrianne -- I'm struck with what vivid images this paints. It's an interesting interplay of scenery and emotions. It makes the reader ask what he/she would do if sitting in that big chair.

It somewhat reminds me of Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice.

Have you found a publisher yet?

Virtual Voyage said...

You've really caught the style of the period in the way this is written. Intruiging...!

willow said...

I am reminded of Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence" and can completely picture the scene!

Adrianne said...

If only, if only, I could live up to Bronte, Austen, and Wharton, that would indeed be something. My novel efforts have languished lately, but I think you all have encouraged me to put them back at the top of the priority list. Thank you.

SJW said...

Adrianne - great to read some of your novel. I feared that as your year out was almost up you might be abandonning it. The style is, as other have said, is very much of the era it's set in. Also have to say that I really like your writing style in your postings in general. It's clear, lyrical and very readable.
Regards, sjw

SJW said...

and I am typing too fast : (

Reya Mellicker said...


You need an agent, asap. Wow.


(Actually it's not slow going. It took Heller ten years to write Catch 22. And more than ten years for Rowling to write the Harry Potter series. You're making good time.)

Steve said...

I can totally imagine the room, and see all of this happening. Such vivid, effective description!