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wot i red on my hols by alan robson (canis convivat)

What a Treat!

I drained the last dregs of my tea and put the mug down on the table. Jake the Dog, who was half asleep on the sofa, looked up with interest. "Is it time?" he asked.

I didn’t reply, I just picked up my phone and slotted my bluetooth headphones over my ears. "It is time," said Jake the Dog enthusiastically as he recognised the signs. He bounded off to the front door. I followed at a more leisurely pace. Then I put on a hat and a coat. I took Jake’s lead out of the cupboard and I struggled to force my feet into my walking shoes. Jake was bouncing up and down with eagerness. "Get a move on!" he demanded. I slipped the lead around his neck and opened the front door. We went out into the cold, dark winter morning for our first walk of the day.

We trotted past a small island of lavender bushes and Jake took a long, leisurely sniff all around them, checking to see if anyone had left any pee-mail for him to read. I adjusted the volume of the audiobook I was listening to on my phone. Jake’s walks always take at least ninety minutes with frequent stops for sniffing and for the exchange of gossip with other dogs. I find this rather boring so I always listen to a story while Jake catches up with what’s been going on in the neighbourhood. That way we both stay entertained.

Once Jake had finished sniffing the lavender bushes he looked up at me expectantly. "Can I have a treat now, please?" he asked, sitting down in front of me and gazing up into my face with his warm, brown, pleading eyes. I tried to move past him, but he just shifted position, blocking my way again. "Pretty please?" he asked. "With knobs on!" He left me no choice. Clearly we weren’t going to be walking anywhere until I gave in to his demands. So I reached into my left hand coat pocket where the dog treats always live and I selected a small one. I tossed it in the general direction of his mouth. He caught it dexterously in mid-air, chewed thoughtfully for a couple of seconds and then swallowed. "Yum!" he said. He got up and stopped blocking my way, so we continued with our walk.

After a few minutes of walking interrupted only by the occasional necessity to sniff every individual blade of grass on somebody’s lawn, Jake decided that he really needed another treat. This time  he tried a different tactic. We didn’t stop walking, but Jake’s whole body language changed as he padded along. His ears went back and his tail wagged furiously. Long strings of anticipatory drool dangled from the side of his mouth. He held his head at a very acute angle that enabled him to continue staring pleadingly at my face while simultaneously jabbing his nose at my left hand coat pocket, effectively covering it with dog slobber. He does this a lot, and many years of massive dog slobber are the reason why my left hand coat pocket is a distinctly different colour from my right hand coat pocket.

Jake was now concentrating so hard on my pocket that he stopped looking where he was going and as a result he slammed head first into a tree, which brought him to a rather abrupt stop. "You just walked into your favourite sniffing tree," I said. "Why did you do that? Did you forget it was there?"

Jake shook his head. "I think somebody must have moved it when I wasn’t looking," he said. "Give me a treat and then I’ll check it out." I gave him a treat and then, true to his word, he sniffed long and hard all over the sniffing tree. When he’d gleaned every possible bit of information from it, he nodded with satisfaction. "Arlo says we need to go and see him," he declared. "He’s really looking forward to having something from your treat pocket. Hurry up, he lives just around the corner."

"I know where Arlo lives," I said. "We see him almost every morning."

"Oh yes," said Jake vaguely. "I forgot. Bumping into the sniffing tree must have knocked the memory right out of my head."

* * * *

I think I was about ten years old when I read George R. Stewart’s novel Earth Abides for the first time. I’ve read it at least once a decade ever since, and sometimes more often than that. Every time I read it, I find new insights. It is a genuine classic, one of the truly great books. It transcends the genre.

Superficially it’s just another after the catastrophe novel – a pandemic has wiped out almost everybody. Only a handful of people remain alive, all widely scattered. The novel tells the story of what happens to one of these people after the pandemic has run its course. This person’s name is Isherwood Williams, Ish for short.

Reading the book today in a post-covid world added a whole extra dimension to the story that wasn’t there the last time I read it. See what I mean about new insights every time you pick the book up? It never fails...

When I read the book as a ten year old I understood almost nothing about the story. I got the basic idea of course, and I found that quite exciting and fascinating enough to keep me reading avidly, but outside of that I had very little appreciation of its subtleties – and make no mistake, this is a very subtle book, which is probably why I keep returning to it so often.

Even some of the superficial details passed me by on that first reading. For example, it wasn’t until many years later, when I finally got round to reading Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick with its famous opening line, that I actually realised the significance of Ish’s name and the function that he had to play in the structure of the story. Not that I really needed to know any of that in order to enjoy the story, but every little helps.

As a ten year old I was also completely ignorant about American geography and so the first grand set piece of the book, Ish’s journey across the continent from the west coast to the east in search of survivors, meant almost nothing to me. And, of course, I had never heard of New York and therefore when Ish arrived in the city the things that he found there were pretty much meaningless as far as I was concerned. Why was it significant that there were weeds growing in Wall Street?

Nevertheless the book grabbed hold of me and refused to let go. It painted unforgettable pictures in my mind and as I read and re-read it over the years it began to make more and more sense. It spoke about things that were increasingly of concern to me as I grew into the world. It asked, and tried to answer, some very important questions. What is humanity? What is civilisation? Is it something special, something intrinsic to the structure of the world, or is it just an ephemeral artefact? How does society work? What actually is society anyway?

The story is told in three parts. In the first section, we meet Ish who is living by himself in the Sierra Nevada mountains working on his graduate thesis about the ecology of the area. After surviving a bite from a rattlesnake, he makes his way back to civilization where he discovers, to his horror, that while he was all alone in the mountains almost everybody else in the world has died.

Ish lives by scavenging what he can from shops and houses. There’s plenty there for the taking. He comes to believe that he is completely alone in the world. He makes friends with a dog who he calls Princess. Together he and Princess embark on a huge journey all the way across the country and back again. On the journey he comes across small, scattered groups of people, but they are very few and far between and mostly they are not coping well with their new circumstances. They are probably doomed to die. Ish starts to believe that humanity as a species may not be able to survive the loss of the civilization that it had built up around itself.

Ish returns to his home in California where he meets a woman called Emma. They agree to consider themselves married and soon they start to have children together. They are gradually joined by a handful of other people. Together they build a small community which mostly lives by scavenging. However as time passes, the infrastructure of civilisation on which they depend starts to fail and the comforts of life recede. Scavenging is only a short term solution when there is no longer any way of replacing what they use up or repairing what has broken down...

Ish tries to teach the children reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography in the hope that they will be able use this knowledge to resurrect some kind of successful society from the ashes of the old world, but the children have no interest in what he is telling them. They find the lessons boring and irrelevant and Ish gets no help in his endeavours from the other adults. He wonders if he is a voice crying in the wilderness.

Twenty-two years pass, and in the second section of the novel the little community that Ish and Emma have founded is flourishing. The younger generation are adapting easily to the world they find themselves living in. They have a much better grasp of the natural world than the adults and they know how to take advantage of it. They do not depend on the trappings of the past. Ish is fascinated by the shape his newly forming society is taking. The children are developing a lot of practical skills but at the same time they are also becoming very superstitious – one day Ish needs his hammer to complete some task or other. He has had this hammer in his possession ever since his solitary return from the Sierra Nevada mountains. He asks the children to fetch it for him. But the children are afraid to touch it. Ish realises that they regard it as a talisman, a symbol of the old times, something that the long-dead "Americans" of the old world had fashioned. They see Ish as one of those Americans. Because he is someone from the old times, he must be god-like and therefore both he and his possessions are sacred.

Ish is forced to admit that his ambition to restore civilization to something like its original state by teaching the old knowledge to the children is not a realistic expectation. So instead he reaches for more modest, more practical goals. He concentrates on imparting a few basic survival skills and rather than teaching formal lessons in a classroom as he had attempted to do in the past, he introduces the ideas as games and playthings instead. And so when Ish makes bows and arrows (for example) and encourages competition between the children with them, the children quickly become adept in their use. It’s such great fun and they never feel as if they are being forced to learn a lesson! The scheme is successful and so other ideas soon follow...

In the third and final part of the novel, Ish is now a very old man. His mind is foggy and he is largely unaware of the world. Occasionally the fog lifts and in one such interlude, he finds himself talking to his great-grandson Jack. Jack tells him that these days the bow and arrow have become much more reliable hunting weapons than scavenged guns from the old times. Bullets can no longer be relied upon, Jack says. Often they fail to fire and the futile click of the gun scares the prey away.

Ish examines one of Jack’s arrows and discovers that the arrowheads are made from old coins that have been hammered into shape and sharpened. There are hordes of these coins scattered through the old houses. They are completely useless things, except for the making of arrowheads of course. The irony of this situation is not lost on Ish, though obviously Jack has no appreciation of it.

Different denominations of coins make differently coloured arrowheads. Jack tells Ish that the differently coloured arrowheads are required for hunting different kinds of game. Ish thinks this is superstitious nonsense, but he knows that it would be futile to challenge the statement.

The former civilization is now completely gone and and Ish knows that it will not be rebuilt any time soon. Looking back is pointless, Ish realises. Things have changed far too much. Society, such as it is, needs to live in the here and now and look to the future rather than attempting to resurrect the dead past.

As Ish comes to the end of his life, the younger men insist that his hammer be passed on to his successor. Ish chooses Jack to carry it forward.

In many ways this is quite a pastoral novel. There are no zombie hordes here, no nuclear wastelands, no Mad Max biker gangs, none of the standard tropes of the post-apocalyptic fiction that came after this book. Instead we just have a group of very ordinary people, people who have no special skills, people who are just doing their best to carry on living in the ruins of the world they once knew. By good luck, rather than by good management, they have survived the pandemic. That pandemic has demonstrated quite clearly that humans have no privileged place in nature. They are not special, they are not immune to nature's built-in population controls. When plants and animals (and people) are free to breed in an uncontrolled manner, populations will always rise and fall again and again. That’s how nature works. If Ish’s ecological studies have taught him nothing else, they have certainly taught him that.

The novel vividly demonstrates that a technological civilisation depends upon numbers and upon specialist skills. When the population is reduced to only a handful of people, how many of them will actually know how to support and repair the infrastructure? Even if the knowledge is there, the people will be spread far too thinly to apply it properly. And so, like it or not, electrical and water systems will soon start to break down. The roads will become overgrown and the bridges will rust and collapse. Thrown on their own resources, the community will, in self defence, eventually revert to a hunter-gatherer society. And as they do so, many of the prejudices that once controlled them will also be lost. Racism, for example, is now seen as a luxury they can no longer afford – the population is far too small to attach any significance to such trivia any more. Everybody needs everybody else no matter what colour their skin might be. Emma is black and Ish doesn’t care. Their children don’t even notice. There are virtues in that viewpoint.

If you asked me to to summarise what Earth Abides is really all about I think I’d have to say it’s about ecology and sociology. Everything else is window dressing used to illustrate and explain the thesis it explores. But it’s utterly fascinating window dressing nonetheless. That’s why the book is one of the great ones – it’s a superb story on the surface with a thoughtful intellectual treat underneath.

* * * *

Arlo lives in a house surrounded by a high fence. Whenever anybody walks past the house he pops up out of nowhere to say hello, supporting himself with his front paws on the top of the fence while he barks furiously. Passers by of a nervous disposition have been known to shriek in surprise at Arlo’s abrupt appearance which always startles them out of their early morning, half-asleep reverie. Arlo is as effective as a cold shower at waking people up all the way. But Jake and I are used to his habits by now and we both enjoy saying hello to Arlo.

Sure enough, as we approached his house, Arlo’s face popped up above the fence. "Hi there," he said. "Good to see you both again."

"Good morning Arlo," said Jake politely. "How are you today."

"I’m treatless," said Arlo sadly, turning his head to look at me. "What have you got in your left hand coat pocket this morning?"

"I’ve got dehydrated liver," I said, "and desiccated sheep lungs and peanut butter crispies. What do you fancy?"

"Sheep lungs sound good," said Arlo, so that’s what I gave him. He munched contentedly.

"Where’s mine?" demanded Jake.  I tossed him a bit of dehydrated liver.

"Would you both like a peanut butter crispie for dessert?" I asked.

"Yes please," they said simultaneously. So that’s what they got.

Once he’d finished his crispie, Arlo dropped down from the fence and hurried to the back door of the house. "Something important is happening out here," he yelled at the top of his voice. "You need to come and see. Now!" Arlo returned to the fence to see what Jake was doing. The back door opened and Arlo’s mum appeared wrapped in pyjamas and dressing gown and yawning hugely. She had a plastic container in her hand. She knows the ritual. Jake jumped up to see her and now both he and Arlo had their front paws up on the fence. They sniffed each other sociably while they waited for Arlo’s mum to get the plastic container open.

"Good morning Jake," she said. "How are you today?"

"Starving," said Jake and Arlo nodded in agreement.

"Well, let’s see what we can do about that," said Arlo’s mum. She took two treats out of the plastic container and gave one to Arlo and one to Jake. "That’s number one," she said. Jake and Arlo both nodded in agreement. One is an easy number.

Arlo’s mum took another two treats out of the container and again she gave one to each dog. "That’s number two," she said. Jake and Arlo both nodded, but two is a much harder number than one and Arlo looked a little puzzled. "How many are left now, Jake?" she asked.

Jake didn’t hesitate. "Just one," he said. Jake is very proud of being able to count up to three.

Arlo’s mum burst into delighted laughter. "Oh, you are such a clever dog," she said, giving him his third treat. Jake got down from the fence. He knew that was the end of the treats. Four is far too difficult a number, even for Jake.

Arlo had lost count long ago so he didn’t know whether he’d been given the same number of treats as Jake, but on balance he seemed to feel that he had. "Bye, Jake," he said.

"Bye Arlo," said Jake. "See you tomorrow."

"Goodbye Jake," said Arlo’s mum, putting the lid back on the plastic container. "Enjoy the rest of your walk."

"I will," Jake reassured her. "I expect we’ll meet Lexi very soon. That’s usually what happens next."

* * * *

The eponymous A Friend of the Family in Lisa Jewell’s novel is called Gervase. Bernie London meets him one evening in the pub. She sings there every so often and Gervase is so impressed by her voice that he strikes up a conversation with her. Before you know it he has indeed become a friend of the family and is lodging in Bernie’s house.

Bernie’s family life is complicated. Her three sons Tony, Sean, and Ned have all grown up and moved away from home – which is why there is plenty of room for Gervase to move in of course.  Tony, the eldest, is a very successful business man who has just gone through a rather traumatic divorce and is worried about his weight. He has a girlfriend called Ness but is nevertheless in lust with his brother Sean’s girlfriend, Millie. Sean, Bernie’s middle son, has surprised everyone by writing a best selling novel. He is now working on his second book but is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. A shock announcement from Millie isn’t helping matters. Ned, the youngest brother, ran off to Australia with a girl he met one night in a bar. That relationship didn’t work out and now Ned has returned home with his tail between his legs. Annoyingly, he finds Gervase sleeping in his old room. Oh well…

All three of Bernie’s sons are dealing with demons. Life is overwhelming all of them. Fortunately Gervase is there to offer advice. He understands what is going on much better than Tony, Sean and Ned do.

This is a complex family drama that explores relationships, some of which work and some of which don’t. Everybody is a decent person, nobody deliberately sets out to hurt anybody else. Nevertheless people do get hurt when things go wrong and sometimes it is hard to know which way to turn. Lisa Jewell keeps the tone light and the story is often very funny despite the emotional storms that are raging just beneath the surface. Eventually all the crises converge and a happy ending emerges.

If you squint a bit, A Friend of the Family is almost science fiction. Gervase is an empath – in itself not very science fictional – but not only does he feel the emotions that the rest of the family are feeling he also appears to be able to project emotions on to other people as well, which is quite a science fictional concept when you stop and think about it. So once people understand how the feelings that Gervase projects actually work they are absolutely able to understand what they need to do about it. It also means that Gervase invariably gives out good advice.

We get no explanation for the way this works. Gervase remains mysterious to the very end – we learn almost nothing about who he is or where he comes from. He arrives mysteriously and when he feels that his job is done he vanishes just as mysteriously as he came on the scene in the first place.

Without Gervase, this would have been an interesting slice of life novel. With Gervase, it is  rather more subtle and considerably more interesting. I enjoyed it a lot.

Janice Hallett’s epistolary novel The Appeal is very annoying and very frustrating to read. Someone has been murdered and someone is in prison for having committed the murder. An appeal is about to be launched and the lawyer who is handling the appeal has charged two of his clerks to review all the evidence and to attempt to determine who the murderer really was.

The evidence consists of nothing but a series of emails and text messages and we get to read them along with the clerks. All the email conversations are incomplete – often we only get to read part of an email chain. We read replies to messages that we have not seen, and we read messages that raise questions that we never see answered. There are far too many people involved in sending these messages backwards and forwards between themselves and it’s almost impossible to work out just who they are and what their relationships are to each other. We don’t even know who has been murdered until about ninety percent of the way through the book and we don’t find out who has been imprisoned for the murder until a lot later than that!

I quickly lost patience with the whole irritating mess. I did struggle through it all the way to the end, though I’m really not sure why I bothered. It wasn’t worth the effort.

* * * *

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we saw Lexi and her mum walking towards us. Lexi’s mum always walks Lexi with an extendible lead. This allows Lexi to keep the maximum possible distance between herself and every other dog and person on the planet. Lexi is a very anti-social dog. She doesn’t even like herself very much!

Lexi’s mum smiled at Jake. "Hello handsome," she said affectionately as she ruffled his ears. Lexi paid no attention. She doesn’t like her mum very much either, and so she really doesn’t care if her mum talks to other dogs. She just pulled her lead out to its maximum extent and then sat down in the middle distance staring at nothing in particular as she waited for her mum to start walking again.

Jake wagged his tail and gazed adoringly at Lexi’s mum for a few seconds. Then he turned to face me. "I’ve been a good boy," he said. "I deserve a reward now."

Lexi’s mum laughed. "That dog has a one track mind," she said.

"He certainly does," I said. "And he’s got me very well trained." I reached into my left hand coat pocket for a treat.

* * * *

Before She Disappeared is the first novel in a fascinating new series by Lisa Gardner. In it we meet Frankie Elgin who, for reasons that don’t become clear until quite late in the story, spends her time looking for missing people. Frankie herself is a drifter, a recovering alcoholic who has been running away from her own broken life for a decade or more. But when the police have failed to find a missing person, when everybody else has given up, Frankie is there to start looking. She has found fourteen missing people so far. Unfortunately she hasn’t found any of them alive…

In this novel, Frankie is in Mattapan, a Boston neighbourhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a teenage Haitian refugee who vanished without trace from her high school several months earlier.

There’s a lot to admire about this novel. The plot is brilliantly ingenious and complex – the reasons that lie behind Angelique’s disappearance are extremely clever and quite unexpected. The characterisation is perfect – everybody, even very minor characters, comes to life on the page. Even Piper, the amazingly anti-social cat, is well rounded and convincingly portrayed! What’s not to like?

Mattapan is predominately a black neighbourhood and naturally the locals are suspicious about a skinny, middle-aged white woman poking around and asking questions. Frankie’s first big problem is to overcome this prejudice. Fortunately  Angelique’s auntie and brother eventually come to trust Frankie and that helps her a lot.

The police are almost as suspicious and resentful of Frankie as the locals are, but when Frankie quickly finds new evidence pointing to what might have happened to Angelique they grudgingly admit that perhaps she does have something to contribute to the investigation after all.

The novel held me utterly enthralled from page one and I found it almost impossible to put down. It twists and it turns. Obvious deductions about who is who and what is what almost invariably proved to be quite wrong, and that constant overturning of preconceived ideas certainly kept me on my toes as this very clever story moved inevitably to its climax. Does Frankie find Angelique alive? Read the book if you want to find out. Trust me, you’ll love it!

* * * *

We left Lexi and her mum to continue their walk and we continued on with ours. We were on the home stretch now. Ahead of us was a large grassy park dotted with interesting trees. I let Jake off his lead so that he could roam freely and investigate each of the trees one by one. He sniffed carefully at the very first tree and then he raced away across the park, completely ignoring my cries of, "Jake, come back – I’ve got a treat for you..."

I wasn’t worried. I knew what that behaviour meant. Maggie must be somewhere in the park. Jake and Maggie have known each other almost all their lives. They failed puppy training school together and both were considered to be a bad influence on the other students. They’ve been firm friends ever since.

Eventually I caught sight of them racing around each other in mad circles, each trying and failing to catch the other’s tail. Graham, Maggie’s dad, stood and watched benignly. Suddenly Maggie spotted me on the horizon. She abandoned her game with Jake and ran towards me, with Graham following on behind. Jake raced after Maggie. He knew what she was looking for and he didn’t want to be left out.

Maggie skidded to a halt in front of me. She plonked her bottom down on the ground and stared pleadingly at me. A couple of seconds later Jake arrived and followed suit. Since I was now outnumbered, I gave in and did exactly as I was told. I reached into my left hand coat pocket and gave each of them a lump of dehydrated lung.

"More, please," said Maggie. Like Jake, she can count to three. I suspect that Jake has been giving her lessons. I gave each of them two more treats and they bounded off to play chase again.

"With any luck," said Graham, "they’ll both do a lot of sleeping today after expending all that energy."

Eventually Maggie and Jake calmed down a little. Their circles got slower and slower and finally stopped. The dogs came back to us again for treats and I put my left hand coat pocket to good use. Graham and I re-attached the dogs’ leads then we each set off for our respective houses.

* * * *

The title of Jackie French’s novel The Great Gallipoli Escape makes it obvious what the subject of the novel is. What is less obvious, though, is what  the Gallipoli escape itself actually was.

Everybody knows about the first world war Gallipoli campaign of course. An army composed mostly of Australians and New Zealanders (ANZACS) landed on the Gallipoli peninsula with the aim of breaking through the Turkish lines and capturing Constantinople. With Turkey effectively out of the war, the Suez Canal would be safe to use again and a year-round supply route could be opened through the Black Sea to warm-water ports in Russia.

Unfortunately for the allies, the Gallipoli campaign proved in practice to be a complete nightmare of inefficiency and incompetence. The Turkish army was much stronger than intelligence reports had indicated. They fought the ANZACS to a standstill. Furthermore the Generals leading the ANZAC armies were, shall we say, quite mediocre in their leadership. The troops themselves fought bravely but as was so often the case with first world war battles, they were (as the popular saying goes) lions led by donkeys. They died like flies in order to maintain a stalemate.

Eventually the allied leaders realised that their position was completely untenable and they decided to cut their losses and evacuate the ANZAC armies. That evacuation was the Great Gallipoli Escape itself. Over the course of two days more than 150,000 men, all their horses, all their artillery and other military supplies were taken off from the peninsula without the Turks realising what was happening. Not a single casualty was sustained during the evacuation. It was an absolute masterpiece of brilliant planning and logistical efficiency.

Ironically, if the campaign itself had been conducted with that same degree of planning and logistical efficiency the fighting on the peninsula might well have been more successful than it actually was, and then, of course, the evacuation would not have been required at all. So it goes…

The novel tells the story of the final few weeks leading up to the evacuation. We see everything that happens through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Nipper and his army mates Lanky, Spud, Bluey and Wallaby Joe. Nipper lied about his age to join up and fight, but he was by no means the youngest soldier on the peninsula. In many ways this was a war fought by children, in itself also quite unforgivable.

Nipper and his mates are starving, freezing and ill-equipped. Ammunition is scarce and often simply doesn’t work. Nipper has spent weeks living (perhaps existing would be a better word) on intermittent supplies of wholly inadequate rations. He often has to melt snow in order to get water to drink. Sometimes he gets to nibble on the contents of an occasional tin of disgusting bully beef that has managed to make it to the front lines. Even the Turks hate the bully beef – whenever they capture any of the ANZAC supplies, they always return the bully beef. Clearly they feel that it is quite unfit for human consumption. Despite all this the ANZAC morale remains high. Nipper and his mates continue to find humour in their hellish predicament

The privations suffered by the ANZAC soldiers beggar belief. Nipper spares us none of the gruesome details. This is meant to be a YA novel, but nevertheless it makes no attempt to draw a veil over the true horrors of war. Nipper’s sufferings are made gruesomely explicit.

Each chapter begins with extracts from memoirs written by Gallipoli veterans. These snippets of contemporary poetry, prose and diary entries greatly enhance and extend the (fictional) account that Jackie French presents to us through Nipper’s eyes. The whole adds up to a quite remarkable novel based on wide ranging and impeccable research. It is an absolute tour de force!

* * * *

When Jake the Dog and I arrived back home, he immediately dashed into the bedroom to tell Robin the Wife all about his morning walk. "It must be time to get up," said Robin as she snuggled back under the covers, desperately trying to ignore what Jake was telling her at the top of his voice.

"I’m going to the supermarket," I said. "Is there anything you need?"

Robin considered this. "Coffee," she said, "and bananas. And I want a treat as compensation for making me get out bed."

"Liver or lung?" I asked, reaching for my left hand coat pocket.

Robin gave me the kind of look that only a wife knows how to give. "Chocolate," she said firmly.

George R. Stewart Earth Abides Del Rey
Lisa Jewell A Friend of the Family Penguin
Janice Hallett The Appeal Atria
Lisa Gardner Before She Disappeared Dutton
Jackie French The Great Gallipoli Escape HarperCollins
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