Authors: Jojo Moyes
For Charles Arthur and Betty McKee
his book would not have been written were it not for the crystalline memory of my grandmother, Betty McKee, whose extraordinary romance with my late grandfather, Eric, and colorful recall of it I have shamelessly plundered in order to bring my own characters to life. I would also like to thank Stephen Rabson of P&O's archive department, for helping paint a vivid picture of passenger life on board ship during the 1950s and Pieter Van der Merwe and Nicholas J. Evans of the National Maritime Museum in London for their help with naval history. Thanks also to Brian Sanders for his imparted knowledge of the Suez Canal.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to Jo Frank at APWatt for finally getting me into print, and for all her encouragement, advice, and tremendous lunches in the (long, long) lead up to it. Equal thanks to Carolyn Mays and the wonderful team at Hodder U.K. and HarperCollins U.S. for their alchemists' skills, and to Vicky Cubitt for her seemingly endless enthusiasm. I'd like some of what you're on.
I'm immensely grateful to Anya Waddington and Penelope Dunn for their advice and contacts, and for not ever raising an eyebrow when I told them I had written something else “that I'd like them to take a look at.” Also to David Lister and Mike McCarthy at the
and Ken Wiwa for their boundless generosity and encouragement during our various literary adventures. Good luck with the next ones, guys.
Thanks to my parents, Jim Moyes and Lizzie Sanders, for passing down if not a genetic storytelling ability, then a certain bloody-minded determination. But most to my husband, Charles, for the uncomplaining babyminding, considered criticisms, and faith that I could do it. To him, and everyone I've ever bored rigid with yet another story idea, thank you.
Then shall the Archbishop kiss the Queen's right hand. After which the Duke of Edinburgh shall ascend the steps of the Throne, and having taken off his coronet, shall kneel down before her Majesty, and placing his hands between the Queen's shall pronounce the words of Homage, saying:
I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
do become your liege man of life and limb,
and of earthly worship;
and faith and truth will I bear unto you,
to live and die, against all manner of folks.
So help me God.
And arising, he shall touch the Crown upon her Majesty's head and kiss her Majesty's left cheek
In like manner shall the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent severally do their homage
RDER OF THE
t had probably been rather rude, Joy thought afterward, to meet one's future husband on what was really meant to be Princess Elizabeth's day. Or Queen Elizabeth II, as she would more grandly be known by the end of it. Still, considering the momentousness of the occasion for both of them, it had been quite hard (for Joy at least) to work up the appropriate feeling of excitement.
It was a day portentous of rain, not divine appointment. The skies over Hong Kong harbor had been humid and iron gray, and walking slowly around the Peak with Stella clutching a folder of damp song sheets, her armpits sliding as if greased and her blouse already sticking to her back like icing, Joy had felt something less than monarchist fervor at the thought of the Brougham Scotts' coronation party.
There was her mother, already fluttering at home, a taut string of anticipation and dissatisfaction, largely due to the presence of her father, back from one of his China trips. Her father's visits always seemed to coincide with a swift downturn in Alice's moods, anchoring her hankerings for a better life, somewhere else, into something meaner and darker. “You're not wearing that,” she had said, and frowned at Joy, her mouth a scarlet moue of disapproval.
Joy had eyed the door. She was desperate to meet Stella, and avoid having to walk to the Brougham Scotts' villa with her parents and had fibbed, telling them that the hosts had requested the sheet music early. Journeys with her parents, even by foot, left her feeling seasick.
“You look so plain, darling. And you're wearing your heels. You'll tower over everyone.” That “darling” was a familiar sweetener to disguise the unpleasantness of what Alice was saying.
“I'll sit down.”
“You can't sit down all evening.”
“I'll bend my knees then.”
“You should wear a wider belt. It'll shorten you.”
“It'll cut into my ribs.”
“I don't know why you have to be so difficult. I'm just trying to make the best of you. It's not as if
try to make yourself look nice.”
“Oh, Mummy, I don't mind. No one else will mind. It's not as if anyone's going to notice me. They'll all be listening to the princess saying her vows, or whatever it is she does.” Just let me go, she willed. It would be bad enough to have to suffer Alice's corrosive temper for the entire party.
“Well, I mind. People will think I've brought you up not to care.”
What people will think was very important to Alice. Hong Kong is a goldfish bowl, she would say. There was always someone looking at you, talking about you. What a very small and boring world they must live in, Joy wanted to answer. But she didn't, largely because it was true.
There was her father, who would doubtless drink too much, and kiss all the women on their mouths instead of their cheeks, so that they glanced around anxiously, unsure whether they had missed something. Just letting his hair down a bit, he would shout back at Alice later. What kind of a wife would deny her husband a bit of fun, after weeks of exhausting work in China (and we all knew the horrors of dealing with
)? He hadn't been the same since the Japanese invasion. But then they didn't talk about that.
There were the Brougham Scotts. And the Marchants. And the Dickinsons. And the Alleynes. And all the other couples who lived in that particular class that resided just below the Peak, but not below Robinson Road (midlevels were really for the clerical classes these days), and saw one another at every drinks party at the Hong Kong Cricket Club, and met one another at the race meetings at the Happy Valley Race Course, and shared company junks on sherry-fueled boat trips around the outlying islands, and moaned about the difficulty of getting milk, and the mosquitoes, and the cost of property, and the shocking rudeness of the Chinese help. And talked about England, and how much they missed it, and about those visitors from England, and how pale and boring their lives seemed, and how
England seemed to be even though the war had been over for simply ages. But most of all they talked about one another: the services men, a whole separate language of in-jokes and barrack-room humor; the merchant men, discussing and disparaging their rivals' performances; their women, grouping and regrouping in endless bored and toxic permutations.
Worst of all there was William. William who was omnipresent at any social gathering with his receding chin and his blond hair as fragile and wispy as his strangled, high-pitched voice, placing his clammy hands on the small of her back to propel her into places she had no desire to go to. While pretending, politely, to listen, she could look down on the top of his head, and consider where it was going to thin next.
“Do you think she's nervous?” said Stella. Her hair, glossy as wet varnish, had been pinned back in a chignon. There were no stray hairs to frizz in the damp air, unlike Joy's, which launched a chaotic bid for freedom within minutes of being pinned back. Bei-Lin, her amah, would scowl and tut at Joy when she was pinning it, as if it were due to some deliberate unruliness on Joy's part.
“The princess. I would be. Think of all those people watching.”
Stella, resplendent in a red skirt, white blouse, and blue cardigan, especially for the occasion, had displayed what Joy considered a rather unhealthy interest in the Princess Elizabeth for the past weeks, speculating upon her choice of jewels, her outfits, the weight of her crown, even how her new husband was likely to feel jealous about her title, seeing as he didn't get to be king. Joy was beginning to suspect a rather unhumble-subjectlike sense of identification going on.
“Well, they won't all be seeing her. There'll be lots like us, who'll be listening only on the wireless.” They both stepped aside to let a car pass, glancing briefly inside to see if it was anyone they knew.
“But she could still get the words wrong. I would. I'm sure I would stutter.”
Joy doubted this, as Stella provided the template for just about everything ladylike. Unlike Joy, Stella was the proper height for a young lady, Stella always wore elegant clothes that her Tsim Sha Tsui tailor made up in the latest Paris fashions, Stella never tripped over her feet, or was sulky in front of company, or got tongue-tied talking to the endless line of officers who, passing through, were commandeered to the “receptions” designed to take their minds off their impending arrival at the Korean War. Joy often thought that Stella's public image might have been slightly dented if her ability to belch the entire alphabet had been as visible.
“Do you think we'll have to stay for the whole thing?”
“What, the whole ceremony?” Joy sighed, kicking at a stone. “It's bound to take absolutely hours, and they'll all get tipsy and start talking about one another. And my mother will start flirting with Duncan Alleyne and start on about how William Farqhuarson is related by marriage to the Jardines and has the right sort of prospects for a girl of my standing.”
“I should think he's rather short for a girl of your standing.” Stella also had wit.
“I've worn my high heels specially.”
“Oh, come on, Joy. It's exciting. We're going to get a new Queen.”
“Why should I be excited? It's not even as if we live in the same place.”
“Because she's still our Queen. She's almost the same age as us! Imagine! And it's the biggest party for simply ages. Everyone will be there.”
“But they're all the same people. It's no fun going to parties if it's always the same people.”
“Oh, Joy, you're determined to be miserable. There are lots of new people if you'd just talk to them.”
“But I don't have anything to say. They're only interested in shopping and clothes and who's being disgraceful with whom.”
“Oh, excuse us,” said Stella, archly. “And what else is there?”
“I don't mean you. But you know what I mean. There must be more to life. Don't you ever want to go to America? or England? Or travel the world?”
“I've been. Lots of places.” Stella's father was a naval commander. “Frankly, I think people are interested in the same things wherever you go. When we were in Singapore it was just one big blur of cocktail parties. Even Mummy was bored,” said Stella. “Anyway, it's not
all the same people. There are officers. There'll be lots there today. And I'm sure you won't have met them all.”