Thursday, 17 September 2020

New Book Release Spotlight with an Extract: The Awakening Of Claudia Faraday by Patsy Trench

The Awakening Of Claudia Faraday

‘It got better, in time, though to be truthful it always felt more of a duty than a pleasure: a little like homework, satisfying when over, and done well, but never exactly enjoyable. But then nobody had ever suggested it could be otherwise.’

This was the view of Claudia Faraday, 1920s respectable wife and mother of three, on the subject of sex. That is until an unexpected turn of events shakes her out of her torpor and propels her back into the world revitalised and reawakened, where she discovers, as Marie Stopes might have said: Approached in the right way, even homework can be fun.

Claudia is visiting her eldest daughter Jessica, and she has escaped from a riotous party that’s taking place downstairs.

She opened the door of her room and without turning on the light flung herself onto a canopy of fur and camelhair, and she realised, gracious me, they’ve been using my room as a cloakroom.

She lay there among the furs and thought, so soft, how nice, I might go to sleep right here, on the top of them, or even in them. So she wriggled and burrowed until she was immersed, like a bird in a nest, in her bed of fur. It felt naughty, but very nice.

Then out of the corner of her eye she noticed a small, glowing red light in the corner of the room. The glow grew brighter, than dimmer, then wavered, and she saw it was a cigarette.

‘Who’s there?’ she said as she snapped on the bedside light.

There was a woman sitting on a chair, her chair, in the corner, one leg crossed over the other, the cigarette in its holder dangling from her fingers. She had short bobbed hair and she was wearing a man’s suit, which looked rather odd but also, Claudia was au fait enough with fashion to recognise, quite à la mode.

‘Don’t mind me,’ said the stranger. She had a black line painted around her eyes. It gave her a haunted look.

‘Oh,’ was all Claudia could come up with.

‘Is this your room?’ The woman leant over and tapped the end of her cigarette into the wastepaper basket.

‘It is actually.’

‘Would you rather I vacated it?’ She was making no move to go. She was looking at Claudia through her black-rimmed, laconic eyes.

‘I suppose there’s little point really.’ Claudia lay back into the furs. ‘It’s not as if I can go to bed until everyone has gone, whenever that happens to be.’

‘Don’t count on getting much sleep tonight.’ The woman took a drag on her cigarette. She was watching Claudia in a rather disconcerting way.

‘That was such fun,’ said Claudia.

‘You’re ducking out early though.’

‘It’s past my bedtime as a matter of fact.’ Claudia wriggled back among the furs. ‘I danced with an Australian.’

‘Bully for you,’ said the woman. ‘That’ll be Archie Wentworth.’

‘Archie, yes, he’s quite a character.’

‘So he likes to think. Says he’s descended from convicts. His great-grandfather was transported to Australia for highway robbery.’

‘Really?’ Claudia lifted herself up onto her elbows. ‘How thrilling.’

The woman shrugged. ‘That’s what he claims. And he’s probably illegitimate. But then illegitimacy runs in the family apparently, so he’s only keeping up the tradition.’ She took a long puff on her cigarette.

‘I’m surprised my daughter would know someone like that.’

‘Archie doesn’t need to be invited anywhere, he just turns up.’

Claudia sat up fully and took a proper look at the stranger. ‘What are you doing here, come to that?’

‘Waiting for someone.’

‘Anyone in particular?’

‘Someone who is not a lawyer, or company director or something in the City. Or heterosexual.’

Claudia’s eyes widened. Was this her first encounter with what was known as a lesbian? That would account for the get-up, she supposed. Woman dressed as a man, it was obvious really.

The woman shifted slightly in her seat. She removed her spent cigarette from its holder, squeezed the butt between forefinger and thumb and placed it in her pocket.

‘Is that what you usually do with your cigarette ends?’

‘I couldn’t see an ashtray, I assume you’re not a smoker. I do have some manners.’ She smiled, for the first time. It was an odd smile, it didn’t really suit her.

‘I thought there were some extremely dashing young men down there,’ said Claudia. ‘Or . . . ‘ Now how could she put this? ‘Or . . . ‘

‘Or what?’

‘Women too. Lovely, some of them. Having such a good time.’

The stranger shrugged again. ‘Not my type.’

‘Perhaps you came to the wrong party.’

‘I think that every time. One lives in hope.’ She sighed. ‘You on your own here?’

‘Yes. I’m Jessica’s mother.’

‘I know that. No husband?’

‘He’s away. He’s . . . ‘

‘No need to tell me.’ The woman raised a hand. ‘Not my business, what a woman does. We’re all free spirits.’

‘Why do you come to a party like this if you don’t like the people?’ Claudia felt vaguely defensive on her daughter’s behalf.

‘I was being provocative, darling.’ She looked directly at Claudia and said, ‘You ever had an affair with a woman?’

‘Certainly not! What do you take me for?’

‘I don’t “take you” for anything. Just wondered. Woman on her own. Opportunity. No offence.’

‘None taken. Nor did I mean to offend you. I mean, if that’s what . . . that’s what . . . ’ Claudia fell back into her fur pillow. She felt so tired. She really did not want this conversation.

‘You’ll never know unless you try.’

You’ll never know unless you try. Claudia thought of Dougie.

At that point there came a faint roar from downstairs.

‘That’ll be him,’ said the woman, sliding to her feet. She stopped in the doorway. ‘Want to meet him?’


‘You’ll see.’

What the hell, there was little point trying to get any sleep yet. ‘All right,’ she said, and she rose from the bed, patted her hair, and followed the young woman out of the door.

A crowd was surrounding the newcomer and it wasn’t until her companion called out – ‘Noël!’ – that the crowd parted and there stood a dapper young man, tall, slim, rather good-looking, and faintly familiar.

Patsy Trench lives a quiet and largely respectable life in north London. Claudia’s story shows a side of her normally shy and reserved nature that is little known, even to her friends and acquaintances. Her previous books, about her family’s history in Australia, are entertaining and informative accounts of that country’s early colonial beginnings. She began writing late, and in a previous life she was an actress, scriptwriter, playscout, founder of The Children’s Musical Theatre of London and lyricist. When not writing books she emerges from her shell to teach theatre and organise theatre trips for overseas students. She is the grateful mother of two clever and grown-up children, and she is addicted to rag rugging and, when current circumstances permit, fossicking on the Thames foreshore for ancient treasure.



Twitter: @PatsyTrench

Instagram: claudiafaraday1920