The Keeper, by Marguerite Poland
The Keeper is set on an island that lies five miles offshore the South African coast, south-west from the densely wooded cape but thirty-one miles from port. Between it and the mainland is a channel, taupe green, cobalt blue.
[...] Sometimes that blue is all of the sky and sea, indivisible. And sometimes the heat bounces off the island rocks, an aura of fire, and the waves glitter as if scattered with mica chips. Sometimes the air is a tumult of gannets - a rising tide of wingbeats - and sometimes it is so still that the piping of a land-bird blown off course can be heard above the breathing of the sea. But when the southeaster blows, the wind whips the water to a salt-grey bile. Even its fish must flee the turbulence. Even the sharks. It is on those days that boats never venture near. Nothing comes except the wind - a great baleful beast. The model of the lighthouse, created from shells, was ten inches tall. It stood on a base of polished wood. Hannes, packing up his things, preparing to leave the island once he had seen to the automation of the light - to become a vagrant pelagic bird once more - had opened the great wooden cupboard on the third landing of the tower and peered inside. It was dark and damp and crammed with old logbooks, instruments and tackle. He had cast his eye over its contents and found the model on the top shelf at the back, wrapped in a woollen shawl. He had taken it up to the lantern room and set it on his work table. He had drawn up his stool and looked at it. He had left the shawl - that soft, familiar shawl - resting on his knee. And he had gazed at the handiwork, remembering. His mother's shell lighthouse. The tides, the shore, the rock pools. And the hunt for shells. He had touched, admiringly, the round red-pink shell she had used for the dome, recalling, intensely, his moment of delight, the bounce as he'd jigged up and down before her saying, 'Look, look!' 'Oh, Hansie!' - only she had ever called him this - 'That is beautiful. I will use it for the dome.' He had walked about the chamber, alert: searching for an echo, a voice, the touch of a hand. Then he had sat again, cocooned, as the rain beat against the thick-clad glass of the window. Beyond the inner silence he had heard the thunder of the surf way, way below He could feel the buffet of the wind against the walls, leaning into its tumult. And he had gazed at the delicate shell lighthouse glimmering in its pristine creams and pinks, the edges outlined in tan. He turned it gently, rotating it to catch each angle and plane. And then he stopped, picked it up in his hands and looked more closely. There was a place where shells were glued to the western aspect of the tower - well matched but newer, clearer, without the patina of those that had been set more than forty years before. Small beads of dried, transparent glue thrust up here and there - moments of impatience - disturbing the harmony of line. This was not his mother's handiwork. Peering closely, he turned the model as gingerly as if he had been holding a blown eggshell. He tipped it on its side and glanced at the underside of the stand. There - his mother's name: Louisa Harker August 1921. just below, smaller, less assured - A.H. August 1937. He scrutinised it in astonishment. Aletta. He touched the tip of his finger to the row of corner shells, only asymmetrical to the deftest touch, the keenest eye - like her small, secret, fragile vertebrae, the back he knew so well. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel The Keeper, by Marguerite Poland.
Title: The Keeper
Author: Marguerite Poland
Publisher: The Penguin Group (South Africa)
Cape Town, South Africa 2014
ISBN 9780143539032 / ISBN 978-0-14-353903-2
Softcover, 14 x 22 cm, 192 pages
Poland, Marguerite im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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