Traces of Dreams
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by Tricia McGill
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction Dream Realm Award Winner
Description: From the horrors of the 1914-18 war to present times, 'Traces of Dreams' follows the lives of Londoners Alicia and Mathew as their working-class family struggles in a world where their only riches are their unfailing strength and capacity for selfless love. Despite insurmountable odds, Alicia is the beacon that lights the way for her family and sustains them for generations. Through illness, tragedy and loss, Alicia must cope with all life throws at her. When everything you love is destroyed, you can just give up or carry on. Alicia's way is to carry on. Strong-willed Sara, one of Alicia's daughters, is almost defeated by the setbacks she encounters. By following her mother's example, she escapes an intolerable situation to forge a new life for herself in a new country. But always she yearns for the love she is forced to leave behind. Winner of the Romance Writers of Australia Award.
eBook Publisher: Calderwood Books, 2007 2007
eBookwise Release Date: July 2008
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [462 KB]
Reading time: 303-424 min.
"...A sweeping story of joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, but also an amazing overview of the century seen through a family saga..."--Mary Allyce The Write Lifestyle
"5 stars!...If you like books like Angela's Ashes or sagas like Cold Mountain or Memories of a Geisha, this is the book for you. It'll hold your interest in a tight grasp, and not let go until the last page."--John Richard www.timeless-tales.net
"Traces of Dreams by Tricia McGill is a story that can't help but touch the reader's heart. It is a moving tale told in two parts. The first begins in London at the start of the first World War and showcases the plight of Alicia, a pregnant woman who sends her true love off to war. She is, of course, left alone as he's killed, and she must find a way to gather her shattered life into some semblance of normal for the child he's given her. She marries another man and bears nine more children. This is not a light-hearted tale. Matt and Alicia are horribly poor and nearly every twist of fate seems cruel. But the family has love and they survive. The second part of this tale deals with one of Alicia's children, Sara, and her story. Sara has learned much from her mother, and is as headstrong and determined as Alicia. I loved this story, although there were times when I felt tears welling in my eyes and an enormous lump in my throat. This story touched me deeply, and I won't forget it. Watching a family struggle so desperately is not easy, but seeing them triumph over tragedy is uplifting. I enjoy long, intense family sagas like this. Tricia McGill writes so realistically that the joys and sorrows portrayed in Traces of Dreams made me laugh and cry. This is a novel of great emotional depth."--Kay James, Romance Reader at Heart
"I've not had the pleasure of reading a great family saga since I last read Thorn Birds. This book rivals that as closely as any I've ever read. This all encompassing tale, tells of the real hardship people faced during the 'Great War.' The history was accurate, but more than simple history; you actually get in the skin of people who had to live in those terrible times. One has to admire the pluck of the women who loved and lost men to war. To pick themselves up after blow that followed blow, bespeaks of selflessness, so infrequently found in today's world. Ms. McGill writes with a powerful voice that takes the reader deep into the soul of the era. While I was on the other side of the pond, I remember well, standing with my mother at the local town hall waiting in line for our ration stamps. This story took me back to that spare gray building and the feelings of insecurity. I hope this writer will continue in this epic vein as she is well suited to it. If you want to know what really happened, not just the numbers, but the real lives that were forfeited you must read Traces of Dreams. This book rates a 5 on my mascara scale (meaning you will need tissues to read this book)"--A.Dee Carey The Fox Lady Visit Narnia on fox paws
CHAPTER ONE Islington, London August, 1914
The flotsam stunk after another hot day. Pungent aromas of horse manure, eels stewing, and rotting vegetables mingled. Alicia dodged the scraps carelessly discarded by the stallholders. She skirted a group of raggedy children sorting through the remnants, fighting over a few cabbage leaves, squelchy potatoes, brown sprouts and mouldy carrots.
"'Ere y'are, luv, 'ow about some luverly ripe toms, eh?" a wizened old costermonger called as she strolled past his barrow. "Ya can 'ave 'em cheap, special, so's I can get 'ome ta put me old plates of meat up!"
Alicia bought two tomatoes, then walked on. She bartered for some pie apples and plums, then going to another stall bought potatoes, turnips, and sprouts.
The cloth bag was now weighty, the handles biting into her palms. Hoisting it into the crook of her elbow she headed towards Beck's Bakery, where the delicious aroma overrode some of the other smells. Five lads were using the bakery wall as a wicket for their game of cricket, their bat a strip of wood off a vegetable crate.
This late in the afternoon, every Saturday, a group of young men congregated outside Beck's corner doors. Sitting on empty bread crates or the low wall alongside the shop they harmonised a tune picked up at the music hall near The Angel. Off-key and out of tune they sang loudly, their enthusiasm catching; only pausing to call out good naturedly to any young women who sauntered by.
Alicia knew they picked the position for its advantageous view in every direction. Tugging at the collar of her white blouse as she neared them she cursed her glowing cheeks and her stupid legs of jelly, almost tripping in her haste.
Arthur Bell was there. Standing out by a mile in his suit of brown serge, sporty cravat, well-shined shoes and hair plastered to his well-shaped skull. Arthur possessed a class that set him apart from his mates.
Frank Albright tossed a coin and Arthur bent to retrieve it from the gutter, falling into step beside Alicia, grinning as he tossed it back to Frank.
"Mind if I walk with you?" he asked, and Alicia nearly fell over her feet as she stared up into eyes that would put the stars to shame. With a jaunty air he straightened the perfectly placed cravat which needed no adjustment.
"Can we come too?"
"We'll keep yer company."
"Cor', mind 'ow you behave with that one, Arthur me lad!"
Arthur ignored their remarks, smiling wickedly at Alicia, making her feel flustered and hot.
"Looks like you are whether I mind or not, don't it?" she said, glancing shyly at him. At five feet two she felt like a dwarf beside him. Arthur was almost as tall as her dad, a bear of a man. Alicia took after her mother in height, although as different to her as chalk from cheese in every other way.
"I've seen you walk this way often on a Saturday afternoon, and only just got up the courage to talk to you," Arthur said, still smiling.
Alicia snorted. "Who're you trying to kid!" Arthur had more confidence than she'd ever have.
"Didn't you go to Stacy Street School?" he asked, and she nodded. "Thought so. You were a couple of years behind me, so let me guess. You must be about nineteen, eh?"
Even at school he'd attracted a lot of attention, and he'd matured into a fine figure of a man with a determined jut to his chin. He'd always had lovely eyes, gentle and as blue as a summer sky. Outlined against that sky he looked very big, strong and masculine.
"Here, let me carry that." Taking her bag he looped it on a shoulder, saying, "Blimey, what you got in here? Weighs half a ton." His grin was cheeky.
Alicia rubbed at her arm. "It was getting a bit heavy."
A lock of coal black hair fell over his forehead as he bent towards her. "How come a pretty little thing like you hasn't got a young man around to carry your bag for you?" he asked. "Or have you and he's not here today?" His blue eyes twinkled.
"No, there's no one to fetch and carry for me." Alicia tugged at her cuffs, cursing the blush coming and going on her cheeks.
"Well, that's good to hear." He chuckled as he suddenly stopped her at the kerb, warning, "Watch it," as a rag and bone man's cart trundled past, pulled by a tired old pony with ribs straining starkly against its sides. His hand was firm and strong on her elbow. As they began to walk on he left it there. "I can't make that out."
"What?" Alicia was very conscious of his fingers gripping her.
"Why a lass as fetching as you hasn't got a beau lined up," he explained.
"Oh." Alicia felt as if her tongue was pasted to the roof of her mouth. "I'm not pretty," she muttered.
Arthur shook his head. "Who told you that? You're as pretty as a picture."
It was her turn to shake her head. By no stretch of the imagination was her oval face with its deep-set eyes and too-full mouth beautiful. Often she despaired of her light brown hair with its aggravating little wave that refused to stay put in the tight bun at her nape.
"I'm sure you've got better things to do than carry my bag." Sure he was having a laugh at her expense, she stiffened.
"Not a thing in the world." He winked and her cheeks flamed. "Will you come out with me, Alicia?"
She was so surprised by that she stopped in her tracks, eyeing him with suspicion.
"Out where?" She felt awkward and silly, sure he was pulling her leg.
"Anywhere you want." He shrugged as he began to walk on, his fingers now entwined with hers. "How about coming to the music hall with me tonight?"
She shook her head, chewing her bottom lip.
Alicia could have cried. She hadn't meant to refuse him; just couldn't believe it. For weeks she'd yearned for this to happen. Now he'd made her dreams come true she'd given him the impression she didn't want to go out with him.
"What about coming to the park with me tomorrow afternoon then? There's a brass band playing at two."
"Oh yes, I'd love to," she said hurriedly, in case he changed his mind.
"This is my place." Alicia stopped in front of the dilapidated house where she lived with her dad and sister, Fiona. It was just as disreputable as all the others in Banks Street.
Arthur nodded, barely giving the house a glance as he kept his eyes on her face with an intensity that made her heart flutter. "Let me put this on the step for you," he offered. Going through the rusty gate he deposited her cloth bag on the step she'd scrubbed that morning. When he straightened he gave her a crooked grin, and touched her lightly on the chin with a knuckle. "See you tomorrow. I'll pick you up at ... Will one be all right?"
"Yes, that'll be just fine." Alicia swallowed as he gave her a small salute, then walked off, whistling, tall and proud, his step jaunty. She watched him until he turned the corner. Heavens, he'd asked her out! She felt like skipping like a kid.
Sighing contentedly she went inside, and along the narrow passage to the scullery at the end. As she put the shopping away she went over every second spent with Arthur, every word he'd said. Did he really find her attractive, or was he stringing her along?