Friday 3 February 2012

Gilli Allan: 'Torn'

“I love this novel! It’s warm and witty and sharp and clever and it made me think,” says Margaret James.

“I found it deeply moving,” says Katie Fforde.

“...emotional, sad, happy, funny and just generally fab! ”says Kim Nash. For Kim’s full, Five Star review go to:

“...A clever, thought-provoking read ... I hope Gilli will write more novels like this one,” says Lally. For Lally’s full, Five Star review go to:

“...TORN is anything but your standard romance with predictable conflicts and stereotypical characters. It's much much more, and a thoroughly enjoyable read,” says Sandra Nachlinger. For Sandy’s full, Five Star review go to:

“.... couldn't put it down. Romance in the real world. Highly recommended,” says Adele Granby.

“...Has a modern take on romance and doesn't flinch from the downsides. Well written, poignant with a very surprising ending, but still a feel good factor ... a 'must buy',” says Sacha.

Find the full reviews at:


To buy go to:

In TORN Jessica has escaped from her old life and moved to the country. All she wants, after the turbulence of the past, is to be a good mother to her young son, with no distractions and no temptations.

But things are never that simple. She soon finds that country living is not like the glossy magazines. Though the problems are different there are still problems. And the friends she makes and the issues she faces pull her in opposite directions.

If she could only get one aspect of her life right it would be a help, but her primary resolve - to avoid any kind of relationship with a man - is soon subverted. On her way to meet him for their first assignation she is racked with doubt about what she is about to do.

Excerpt ........

Veiled in frost and Old Man’s Beard, the trees and hedgerows which skirted the lane were grey overlaid on a backdrop of other greys – silver and charcoal, graphite and opal; the river beyond, and the gently rising landscape, dissolved into mist. The route was familiar enough; she had driven this way from Cherub’s nursery around the far side of Spine Hill many times before, but then she’d been heading into town – and she’d not been trembling. After delivering Rory she set off slowly, the speedometer barely reaching above twenty-five, and the nearer she got, the lower her speed dropped. She passed the driveway to the farm and shortly joined the eastern end of her own lane. She made the turn towards Warford then crossed Skirmish bridge.

Here, on the right, just a few feet of verge divided the boundary of Gore Farm from the road. In places the lichen-encrusted dry-stone wall had been repaired. Bright, implausible sections of newly laid stone interlinked with the old weathered wall in bleached blonde patches. Jess shook her head. Concentrate. Where was the signpost? Had she unquestioningly accepted Danny’s directions she should have been looking on the left but she knew it couldn’t be. At long last, when she spotted it, it might just as well have been a skeleton hanging on a gibbet.

She was bone cold and shivering as she made the right turn into the opening marked with the footpath finger-post. Her pulse raced, her thoughts whirled in a repeating loop: why am I doing this? The farm track seemed impossibly long. It became ever more overgrown. Elder and Blackthorn on either side scraped the car as it passed. The sharp, sudden whip crack, as a long frond of bramble slapped the windscreen, made her gasp. Her heart rattled against her ribs.

‘Oh God! Oh my God! This is the wrong way. I’m sure this is the wrong way! Perhaps the turning was on the left,’ she whispered to herself, even though it would have defied logic. ‘Where’s the pull in? I’m going to arrive at a dead end!’ But her worry was not about a lengthy stretch of reversing; a part of her did not want to find the discreet back way that led to Danny’s caravan at all. If the adventure had to be aborted she would feel relief from the acute sense of guilt that gripped her. The continuous chant from her conscience called her heartless and unnatural for abandoning her sick child. Yet Rory had seemed happy enough to be left; after several days incarcerated at home with only mother for company he’d become bored and grouchy. Rationally she knew that a few hours engaged in social activity was just what he needed to take his mind off his lingering snuffle and cough. But a part of her wanted to scrub this and go back for him. A part of her wanted to return home, unsullied.

Just as she despaired of finding the spot Danny had described, the track widened in front of a gate. After pulling in she just sat for a while, head bowed onto folded arms. Then she breathed in, squared her shoulders and opened the car door. Danny had said it would be safe to park here. It was obvious the track was hardly used except by the occasional walker or by Danny himself, going into town with his bike. The gate hadn’t been opened for years. An old chain and padlock, mahogany with rust, was wound round and about the gate and its post. Danny must heft his bike over the style – the only way into the field.

Though it felt as if she’d driven miles beyond the farm buildings she must have executed a loop. She was now only a few hundred yards above the caravan and beyond it the stone barns, which shielded the house from view. As she got closer she could hear the massed bleating of the pregnant ewes coming from the barn. A curtain twitched in the back window of the caravan, then suddenly he was there, pale and hesitant, standing by the tow bar end. They scarcely touched but he hustled her quickly up the front steps and inside, keeping himself between her and the farm buildings. A transistor radio was on. Danny turned off what sounded like Radio Four.

‘I was afraid you wouldn’t find me. I’m no good at directions.’

‘I found it easily.’ Why make the moment any more awkward by complaining he’d muddled left and right?

‘Is there anything you want Jess? Can I make you a cup of tea ... or?’

‘No nothing. This is madness Danny. What am I doing here?’ she blurted then was instantly mortified by his pained expression. He shrugged helplessly.

‘If you don’t know...?’

He looked as strained as she felt. Of course he was worried. He would have to be a man of blinding self-confidence not to feel a little concern about his performance, given the first mishap. Jess already knew he wasn’t that kind of man. He wasn’t a man at all, not yet, but he was brave – brave to have put himself on the line like this. Anxiety, guilt, responsibility all clamoured for ascendancy in her head. This was so unfair of her, to accept his invitation and then to blow hot and cold. And yet, and yet - she could not go through with something, believing it to be wrong, just to reprieve herself in his eyes. Could she?

‘I’m sorry, Danny. I feel about as sexy as a plate of cold, cabbage,’ she said, mournfully. Danny smiled and shrugged again.

‘It doesn’t matter. We can just sit and talk for a bit. I’d prob’ly be a let down on the sex side, anyway. You’ll not be missing much.’

This made her laugh. ‘Don’t be daft. I’m sure there are ways of getting round....’

‘My inexp’rience?’ He’d begun to seem more relaxed, more in command of the situation; almost as if, by admitting his lack of sexual prowess, he had defused the tension. Was he really only nineteen? He made her feel silly, tongue tied, inept.

Looking around she took in the dented walls, the dirty, cracked and broken linoleum which partially covered the floor. Yellow flowery curtains were drawn across the small windows diffusing the light and casting an amber gloom over the interior. At the kitchen end, a small Calor Gas cooker, its ceramic surface veined brown with age and baked on grease, was next to a little sink with a mucky looking draining board. A kettle and a few upturned mugs stood on the raw edged MDF work-top; below it, a curtain in dingy shades of brown and orange check, hung from a wire to the floor. A partial room divider separated the kitchenette from the living area. On one side a couple of metal-legged chairs with blue plastic seats shared the space with a small table, partly flapped down against the wall; its surface was marked by heat rings and old cigarette burns. Opposite, a multi-coloured cover, decorated with stars and moons and runic symbols, was draped over a narrow divan bed. Dangling from the ceiling above was a mobile hung with crystals and feathers. There were a few posters on the walls, in the ‘Save the Whale’, ‘Cherish Mother Earth’, and ‘Fur Looks Best on the Original Owner’ tradition. Even as she took in his sparse living arrangements Jessica was aware he was scrutinising her.

‘This van must be half a century old. Is it yours?’

‘No, the boss got it from somewhere for me to doss in. It’s all I need.’

‘Then you’re not very demanding.’ It was the lack of books, of magazines or newspapers that made the place seem so bare, she realised.

‘Even if I was living in a place as small as this I’d still want more around me in the way of possessions. Most of my stuff is still in store, but I had to have some personal stuff, books and so on, to move into the cottage with.’ There weren’t even any of the technological gizmos she might have expected to see in the room of a young man, except.... ‘Oh, is that your phone? You’ve found it?’ She stretched for the box, lying on a tilting shelf, by the divan. ‘Have you even opened it yet?’

Danny shrugged. ‘Pete knows I don’t like things like that. I don’t know why he gave it to me.’ From the growing assurance of earlier he seemed suddenly guarded. She tipped the phone out onto her palm then pressed a few of the keys. Apart from the name, Pete, and his number in the contacts list, it seemed unused; the memory empty.

‘Perhaps he wants to keep in touch?’

‘Doubt it.’ He stayed by the window, pulling back the curtain to look out.

‘When you said your brother had given you a mobile phone I assumed he’d passed on an old one,’ she said. ‘It’s a model I’ve been thinking of upgrading to. It’s got loads of extra apps. And he’s already set it up for you. It’s fully charged and you’ve loads of credit!’ she continued. ‘Wow! I’d like a brother like yours. I’ll put in my number and my email address. Look, that’s your number.’ Jess retrieved her own phone from her bag and entered Danny’s number into her contacts list, then entered her details into his. She fiddled a bit more and the phone went through its repertoire of call jingles. ‘Which one do you want? All you have to do is make sure you keep it charged up. And here’s the phone number to credit your account, when you need to. Look. The instructions are all here.’ She kept turning the phone in his direction, to show him the display, but he kept his back resolutely turned. ‘Aren’t you interested?’ she said at last. ‘Danny?’

He turned towards her then, but he was frowning. ‘Why are you so obsessed?’

‘I’m not. But if you started to use this ... kept it switched on ... we could keep in touch?’

He took the phone out of her hand and put it down without looking at it.

‘It’s not how I want to keep in touch. I prefer to see people face to face when I talk to them. I like to look in their eyes, see if they’re telling the truth.’

There were many practical objections she could make to this statement but, suddenly disconcerted by his level gaze, she sat down on the side of the divan. With a faint tinkle, the mobile hanging above her head, shimmied. Looking up she could see that it was a more intricate piece of work than she’d first thought; a lacy cat’s cradle of beads, feathers, a variety of different snail shells and crystals.

‘I love this. Where did you get it?’ She was thinking that Rory might like one over his bed – then that she would.

‘I made it. It’s a dream-catcher.’

‘You made it...! But it’s beautiful!’

He gave her a sideways look as if unsure of her underlying meaning.

‘I’m sorry, that came out wrong ... I mean it. It’s just ... a lovely thing.’

Almost haltingly, as if confused by her praise, Danny began to describe how he’d made it and the materials used.

‘And that bluey-green feather’s from a Jay, the gold one’s a Cock Pheasant, the white one with the speckles is from a Barn Owl.’

‘Danny?’ Jess ceased to look at the feathers he pointed out. She laid her palm against his cheek. ‘Ssshh.’ From then on their mouths were otherwise engaged. He might be young, he might be sexually inexperienced but in the kissing game he was a natural, Jess thought vaguely, before her brain switched to a mode where rational, sequential thought was replaced by instinct and need.


Jenny Twist said...

Great excerpt, Gilli.

Sandy Nachlinger said...

I enjoyed reading your excerpt. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the book.

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks Jenny and Sandy.