No Talking After Lights (Isis Series)
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Set within a girls' boarding school in the 1920s, this novel tells the story of petty treachery and deceits which culminate in violence and the realization of change. Central to the novel are three women from different generations - Henrietta, the head, Sylvia, a teacher, and Constance, a new girl.
and she would find her destiny. Every evening she prayed for them, alone in their nursery with its alphabet frieze round the walls, toys tidily ranged in the toy cupboard, watching her through the glass doors, books in order on the shelves (she would take them out sometimes, wistfully - Jock of the Bushveld, The Crimson Aeroplane). Praying was all she could do, and so she prayed for hours: first for Jamie, that she might see him again, then for the other two, that they might not be wounded or …
The school, of course, had no secrets from parents. Up in the studio the best pictures were displayed on wooden battens along the walls or tacked on to easels with drawing-pins. Every girl’s portfolio was there to be opened; some were simply more accessible than others. Fathers would walk round in navy blazers and striped or regimental ties, hands behind their backs, peering uncertainly at the drawings or paintings, stuck for words. ‘Which one’s yours, darling?’ mothers would ask; and then,
rhythm of her own pain. Sylvia Parry heard the sighs, clenched her fists and turned her back to the class, drawing diagrams on the blackboard so as not to see Constance’s bowed head, her evident lack of interest in the lesson. The sighs went on. Miss Parry felt her anger like a rising tide. Behind her back, every minute or so, she could hear another dramatic groan. The girl was merely drawing attention to herself. If she ignored it, the groaning would stop. No-one spoke, no intelligent questions
added to herself. ‘I suppose I just wanted to cheer up the poor children without any mothers or fathers. I don’t know. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m sorry.’ She looked at the Head. One more try, she thought wearily. ‘I’m really awfully sorry. I sort of didn’t think I’d, you know, get away with it.’ ‘You haven’t got away with it, Charmian. You know, of course, that I shall have to tell your parents. I realize that this sad business has been very upsetting for you. Was that perhaps why you did
violated if we had not intervened.’ ‘Yes, Miss Monk, I am indeed aware of that. I do not quite follow your reasoning. Why should you regard being moved as any sort of punishment?’ A dangerous silence fell. The three women looked at one another, wary and poised in the charged atmosphere. Sylvia thought, good God, she’s going to make the supreme sacrifice. She’s going to own up like a loyal little friend protecting her accomplice. I can’t let that happen. ‘Of course we are not being punished,’