Blog tour feature: Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney

By | July 22, 2016

Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe’s 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve’s crow, the dawn to Maeve’s dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were. 

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved – a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.

Oh, I do wish I could have read this one! Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney was published by Legend Press on 1st July, and received some wonderful pre-release endorsements. Here are just a few of them:

Tender and unflinching, a beautifully observed novel about familial love and stoicism in the face of heartbreak.  CARYS BRAY, Costa Prize-shortlisted Author of A Song for Issy Bradley

I found the novel most poignant and tender in its depiction of disability, without a whiff of sentimentality… it crept under my skin and will stay there for a long time. EMMA HENDERSON, Orange Prize-shortlisted Author of Grace Williams Says It Loud

An extraordinary tale of kindness, empathy, love, and secrets… I read it in one sitting!
ELIZABETH L. SILVER, Author of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

Amazing: fierce, intelligent, compassionate and deeply moving… an important and very beautiful book. EDWARD HOGAN, Desmond Elliot Prize-winning Author of Blackmoor

The exceptional reviews are now flowing in – this is a book I must catch up on as soon as I’m able. But as I’m unable to share a review, I’m delighted to be able to share an extract for my stop on the blog tour.

I was in the Honeysuckle Room, doling out extra bedding, the day Vincent Roper returned. The most familiar of details seem so important now: the barbershop band rehearsing in our lounge; the pale yellow of the blanket; the airing cupboard scents of lavender bags, copper pipes, that smell of warm wool like a pint of milk about to turn; the toll the task had taken on my back. 

Perhaps I was getting too old for all this. Maybe Zenka had a point when she mithered me about leaving all the housework to her. But, as usual, she’d shown up to clean Sea View Lodge in stilettos and a miniskirt so I’d set her to work in the kitchen, out of sight of our guests. 

I allowed myself a breather since the Honeysuckle Room afforded a magnificent view of Morecambe bay: the pigeon-grey sands stretching out for miles until they reached the charcoal waves; the sky the shade of smalls gone through the dark cycle by mistake. 

When I spotted an elderly gentleman heading up our front path, I thought at first that he might be a Frenchman: something about the cut of his jacket, the loose coil of his scarf, the rectangular shape of his glasses. But the high polish of his cane and the way he bowed his head to the wind with an air in between defiance and defeat – these things were unmistakably English. 

He paused for a long while, taking in Sea View Lodge, his hand on our front gate. Perhaps he’d noticed that our masonry could do with a lick of paint or that the gutters needed repairing. 

When the man looked straight up at the Honeysuckle Room, a memory broke into my mind: a girl holding her sister above the waves, letting the water lap at the little one’s toes; the child’s elfin face all wonder as a wave-froth caught in her curls. 

I froze, there at the window, Vincent Roper staring up at me, his blue eyes appearing even brighter now that his hair had turned white as a gull.  

‘Steph!’ I called out. ‘Len!’ And then, shaking my head to rid myself of the memory, and trying to quell the panic in my voice, I added: ‘Would one of you come in here?’ 

Steph arrived at the doorway, panting – the mauve quilt for the Lilac Room folded across her chest. ‘Problem?’ she asked, her hand clenching and flexing as it always did when she was distracted or distressed. 

‘I’m sorry, love,’ I said, as she gazed up at me – her face full of concern. ‘I didn’t mean to scare you.’ 

Len bounded into the room, just as our doorbell rang. 

‘Would you tell our visitor that I’m not in?’

‘You are in, Maeve!’ she insisted.

‘Remember how we run through it in front of the mirror, my love?’ I said, trying to hide my panic.

Steph nodded and stood up tall. ‘Welcome to Sea View Lodge. How may I help you?’

‘That’s right, my love. Hop to it.’

Len beamed at her. ‘You are the best receptionist in the whole wide world!’

‘You are indeed, my dear,’ I put in. ‘If the gentleman asks to see me, you’re to tell him I’m out.’ 

‘You’re out?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Oh no, you’re not!’ she exclaimed, as if we were rehearsing for a panto. 

‘Now’s no time for honesty,’ I snapped. Folk with Down’s syndrome – the term of choice nowadays – don’t tend to go in for white lies.  

Len studied his reflection in the mirror, pulling up the sleeve of his garish Christmas jumper to reveal his flexed muscle. ‘I can carry the suitcases!’ he proclaimed. ‘I’m a fine figure of a man!’

‘You’re not to let the gentleman stick around, do you hear me? He’s not to darken the door.’

Isn’t that just wonderful? My thanks to Lucy at Legend Press for the extract, and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Emma Claire Sweeney is a multi-award-winning author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, who currently teaches on City University’s Novel Studio and at New York University in London.

Emma was brought up in the North West of England, the elder sibling of twins, and OWL SONG AT DAWN is inspired by her autistic sister. 

With her writer friend and colleague, Emily Midorikawa, she runs the website Something Rhymed, which shines a light on the forgotten friendships of the world’s most famous female authors.

Emma writes literary features, reviews, and pieces on disability for broadsheets and magazines.

Follow Emma on Twitter: she also has an excellent website.