I read These Dividing Walls in 2017 – you can find my review here – and I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of this delightful novel with an extract from the novel.
What building doesn’t have secrets?
How much does anyone know of what goes on behind their neighbour’s doors?
On a hot June day, grief-stricken Edward arrives in Paris hoping that a stay in a friend’s empty apartment will help him mend. But this is not the Paris he knows: there are no landmarks or grand boulevards, and the apartment he was promised is little more than an attic room.
In the apartments below him, his new neighbours fill their flats with secrets. A young mother is on the brink, a bookshop owner buries her past, and a banker takes up a dark and malicious new calling.
Before he knows it, Edward will find himself entangled in their web, and as the summer heat intensifies so do tensions within and without the building, leading to a city-wide wave of violence, and a reckoning within the walls of number 37.
Prologue: The Building
Far back on the Left Bank, there is a secret quarter. Beyond the neon-lit slopes of Montparnasse, the winding cobbles of the fifth arrondissement, a warren of quiet streets lie sandwiched between boulevards. Little traffic comes through here.
Number thirty-seven sits at the meeting of two streets in this forgotten corner of the city. It is much like the buildings that surround it – late nineteenth-century, pale stone. But for its turquoise door it might slip from view altogether.
On summer nights, its residents return home as the sun sinks over the city. Lights are turned on, windows opened; dinners cooked and babies put to bed. The smell of garlic browning in a pan drifts into the courtyard, along with a child’s cries and snippets of conversation caught on the breeze.
Within its walls, people kiss. They talk, they laugh; someone cries, perhaps. A few are glad to sit alone. Others wish that they did not.
As darkness falls, the lights are gradually extinguished again. On such a heat-soaked, airless night as this, number thirty-seven’s residents lie in their beds, listening to the rise and fall of neighbours’ breath. Life is measured by the scrape of strangers’ plates, the tinny ring of someone else’s telephone, the grunts of sex (and other functions), until all is finally quiet again.
Number thirty-seven has its stories; in this it is like any building. For what building doesn’t have secrets? How much does anyone know of what goes on behind their neighbours’ doors?
About the Author
In August 2012 I moved to Paris, and that first night in my new apartment I was fascinated to discover I could hear my neighbours snoring. I had never met these people, yet there was something so intimate in how much of each others’ lives we were privy to, and I became fascinated by the idea of all the different stories that might go on behind an apartment building’s closed doors.
I spent three magical years in that apartment, and my first novel, These Dividing Walls, tells the story of just such an apartment building over the course of a hot and politically troubled summer.
Lamenting the loss of cheap French wine and fresh baguettes, I now live in London with my fiancé Alex and our three-legged cat, Chip, who shares my penchant for staring out of windows and keeping an eye on the neighbours. When I’m not scribbling away on my second novel, The Two Houses, I can be found watching geeky BBC documentaries , taking long bubble baths, and attempting ambitious yoga poses.
Make sure you check out the other wonderful stops on the tour!