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545 pages, Paperback
First published September 7, 1996
The Tree itself is of triangles, in two colours, dark for the leaves and a lighter colour for the fruits; I am using purple for the leaves and red for the fruits.
Murderess is merely brutal. It's like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.This is the story of Grace Marks. A most unfortunate woman-- depending on how you look at it.
In his student days, he used to argue that if a woman has no other course open to her but starvation, prostitution, or throwing herself from a bridge, then surely the prostitute, who has shown the most tenacious instinct for self-preservation, should be considered stronger and saner than her frailer and no longer living sisters. One couldn't have it both ways, he'd point out: if women are seduced and abandoned, they're supposed to go mad,(I now realise this was remarkable foreshadowing) but if they survive, and seduce in their turn, then they were mad to begin with.The language in this is also enticing. When we get to explore Grace, I sit with my rough hands folded, eyes down, staring at the flowers in the Turkey carpet. Or they are supposed to be flowers. They have petals in the shape of diamonds on a playing card; like the cards spread out on the table at My Kinnear's, after the gentlemen had been playing the night before. Hard and angular. But red, a deep thick red. Thick strangled tongues.
Oh Grace, said Nancy, we will have to kill a chicken, just step out and request McDermott to do it. I said that surely we would need two chickens, as there would be six to dine, with the ladies; but she was annoyed, and said there would be no ladies, as the wives of these gentlemen never condescended to darken the door of the house, and she herself would not be taking dinner with them in the dining room, as all they would do was drink and smoke and tell stories about what fine deeds they'd done in the Rebellion, and the would stay too long and play cards after, and it was bad for Mr Kinnear's health, and he would catch a cough, as was always the case when these men came to visit. She allowed him a poor constitution when it suited her.Grace's sometimes uncharitable opinions of Nancy make you wonder, could she have possibly been more complicit than she would have us believe?
...you may think a bed is a peaceful thing, Sir, and to you it may mean rest and comfort and a good night's sleep. But it isn't so for everyone; and there are many dangerous things that may take place in a bed. It is where we are born, and that is our first peril in life; and it is where the women give birth... And finally beds are what we sleep in, and where we dream, and often where we die.