The Tissue Veil by Brenda Bannister Blog Tour with Excerpt

What if you discovered a hundred-year-old diary under your floorboards - and then found references in it to yourself? Or if you lived in 1901, yet kept seeing glimpses of a girl from modern times? And what if both of you had problems that only the other could really understand? Emily and Aysha live in the same Stepney house and an inexplicable link develops between them, fuelled by Aysha's discovery of a journal and Emily's sightings of a 'future ghost'. Each takes courage from the other's predicament - after all, what's a hundred years between friends?


The Tissue Veil is told over two time frames, beginning in 1901 and 2001. This is the opening of the novel in February 2001, the day of Queen Victoria's funeral and a fateful one for Emily's family...

Saturday 2 February 1901

“It can’t be good for you, Maria,” Pa says, “to stand out in this weather.”
    “I have to go,” my mother argues. “When will we see a day like this again? I have a slight cold, no more – what other chance will there be to pay our respects?”
    The Queen is dead! Victoria, who ruled this country for over sixty years, has died at her home on the Isle of Wight. Ma reads the funeral plans aloud from The Times and, oh! what a complicated thing it is to bury a queen. Her coffin must be brought by boat and train to London, then put on a carriage and drawn through the streets – past the Palace, Hyde Park, Marble Arch and so to Paddington and another train to Windsor for her final rest.
    Ma wanted us all to set out early to obtain a good place, but Pa expects a tobacco shipment today and can’t desert his business. When he sees she is determined, he turns to me.
    “Stay by your mother, Emily. There will be great crowds – be sure not to separate. And keep yourselves warm.”
    Ma thinks it will be best to go straight to Paddington and wait there for the cortège to arrive; that way, she says, we may be ahead of the crowd. But at nine-thirty, when we leave the station, the kerbs are already lined five deep. Ma squeezes through the throng, pulling me with her and ignoring complaints from those on either side. The roads are guarded by policemen and one tells us, “Watch your pockets, ladies. There are villains about who take advantage of a time like this.”
    We stamp our feet to keep them from turning numb and breathe into our gloves. Ma buys currant cake from a street seller, but is unwilling to give up our place to go in search of a coffee stall. The sky is a sombre grey and unbroken cloud presses down on us, threatening rain or snow. The cortège is expected before noon, but there is still no sign of it by twelve-thirty.
    “She better ‘urry up,” says a joker, “or the train’ll go without ‘er!” A policeman gives him a disapproving look. At last we see the gun carriage with its sad burden, the new king on horseback and more crown princes than I can count or name. I see that Ma is caught up in the spectacle, despite the cold, but what I cannot credit is the sheer number of troops. Guards, cavalrymen, Scotsmen in kilts, men from the Indian army, sailors – all look polished, brushed and fed, the horses sleek and well-groomed. Yet how can so many be here, at home in London, while my
brother Charlie and his comrades want for reinforcements and rations in the heat of South Africa?
    The gun carriage enters the station and we watch until we can see it no more. The Queen’s coffin now goes on to Windsor with all the kings and princes, leaving her people behind. The crowd seems reluctant to disperse and we cannot get back into the station. We try for an omnibus to King’s Cross instead, but so do many others and it takes an hour before we reach the front of the queue. By the time we get back to Stepney, it is almost five o’clock and already growing dark. I feel cold and tired, but Ma is shivering violently and starting to cough.
    Pa is not yet home, so I call for Daisy to stoke up the parlour fire and make us some tea. We have been looking into the faces of mourners all day and at first I don’t notice the slump of Daisy’s shoulders or the blank emptiness of her expression, but Ma follows her eye to the hall table where a long envelope with a War Office imprint lies waiting. It is addressed to Mr and Mrs Watts.
    “Open it, Emmie,” Ma whispers, “my fingers are too numb.”
    If only I could turn back time, fold up the page unseen, reseal the envelope, make the postman take it back; but it’s too late. I hold the letter outstretched for all three of us to read. Thousands have marked the passing of a woman who lived a long, long life and died in her bed, but not one of his family was at home to receive this terrible paper which tells us Charlie is dead.

Brenda studied English at university and later qualified as a librarian, working in various educational settings from schools to higher education. Moving from London to Frome in Somerset in 2010 proved a catalyst for her own writing as she joined local fiction and script writing groups. She has had a number of short stories published, plus short plays produced in local pub theatre, but all the while was incubating a story based in the area of Tower Hamlets where she had worked for eighteen years.  This germ of a story became 'The Tissue Veil'.
Brenda is a founder member of Frome Writers' Collective, an organisation which has grown from a handful of members to over a hundred in the past four years, and helped set up its innovative Silver Crow Book Brand. She is also the current organiser of the annual Frome Festival Short Story Competition. A lifelong reader, Brenda rarely follows genres, but enjoys modern literary fiction, historical fiction, classics and the occasional detective novel. The latest Bernard Cornwell might be a guilty pleasure, but she'll be even more eager to get her hands on Hilary Mantel's final instalment of Thomas Cromwell's story.

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