A Watch of Nightingales
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Series: Michigan Literary Fiction Awards
Title Page and Copyright
I’m indebted to the following people for their kindness, guidance and inspiration: Faye Bender, Katharine Cluverius, Sam Douglas, Connie Hales, John Hales, Liddy Hubbell, Alexis Khoury, Kathie Lang, Pria Mangtani, Carolyn McCormick, Tanya Nichols, Jane Saunders, Helene Joseph-Weil, Linda Wilson, my colleagues and students in the English Department at California State University, Fresno, and my colleagues...
Mara heard the voice from a long way off, a girl calling the doves. She stood alone in the stone courtyard, listening. She knew without seeing that the girl’s hands were cupped close to her face, as if she were whispering a secret into another girl’s ear. Mara waited, but no bird answered, and so she pulled the heavy door closed, scattering the cote of doves roosting above her. The rush of their wings was like ›uttering pages, a sound Mara believed she had...
Her name was Mara Robinson then, and she was eighteen and standing on the platform at Gobowen Station, in the freezing January rain. She had not gone into the waiting room because her bags, seven months’ worth of clothes and books, were too heavy to budge. She had been moving most of them, two steps at a time it seemed, for the past thirty-six hours, from Pittsburgh to Washington...
Mara thought she must have slept. She was lying on the couch, her shoes were off, the room was dark, though there was some uneasiness about the light at the edges of the window that suggested dawn, or the idea of it anyway. Phil had come back from Union Station a few hours before. Nothing, he said. Nobody saw her or talked to her or remembered selling her a ticket, but it would...
Kokila Iqbal’s mother’s name was Sahila, but everyone she knew in Cambridge called her Sallie. When she met Mara at Euston Station in London, she bent and kissed her forehead. “Ah, you girls in dif‹culties,” she said, the pitch of her voice both sad and forgiving. She picked up Mara’s suitcase and led her away from the platform, through the crowded station and out onto the street. ...
The boys gathered for assembly every Wednesday at ten A.M. It was chapel, really, a hymn, a scripture reading, a sermon or talk, sometimes a choral selection, prayers, another hymn, boys in robes serving as acolytes, candles lit at the beginning and extinguished at the end. John would give the sermon about once a month. Since his death, other faculty had stepped in, but Mara...
But they were not grateful, the English girls, not at all, and in the Vernal Hall hothouse of ›amboyant anger and forgiveness, a strange alliance was developing, Mara noticed. Kokila, who had reviled the English girls, suddenly entered into complicity with them, a few of them, Gina Whistler in particular, who kept about her a tight circle, an entourage. One day, it opened just enough...
There was another nightingale story, Mara knew. She had read it to Rachel fourteen years ago, and then sung it in three versions of the opera, the Stravinsky called Le rossignol, the Charles Strouse and the Susan Bingham versions called by the English name, The Nightingale, from Hans Christian Andersen. Now, Mara couldn’t get it out of her head, as if a part of the story she’d been missing...