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A Watch of Nightingales

Liza Wieland

Publication Year: 2010

A modest, quiet woman, Mara Raynor never dreamed she'd one day find herself in charge of the small private school in Washington, D.C., where for many years she taught music and choir. But after the unexpected death of her husband, the school's headmaster, Mara finds herself thrust into the public eye, burdened not just with the responsibilities of acting headmaster---a role she never wanted---but also with a potentially explosive political and religious controversy that tests parents' and school administrators' spirit of tolerance. When a Sikh student is caught wearing a ceremonial knife on school grounds, fear spreads among parents and the school board. Coming at the same moment as the disappearance of Mara's teenage daughter, the controversy quickly assumes a far more personal nature. Not just any student, the Sikh boy is both the son of a woman with whom Mara shares a complicated past and---as Mara soon discovers---her own daughter's boyfriend. As it moves back and forth in time between the school in contemporary Washington and a girls' boarding school in the British countryside in 1977, A Watch of Nightingales weaves a rich and textured exploration of fear and remorse, the mysteries of love, and the complicated tensions that ring down the generations from parent to child. "Conjuring the entwined lives of teachers and students in two schools (and two generations) on either side of the Atlantic, A Watch of Nightingales stands alongside The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Goodbye, Mr Chips as a testament to the responsibilities, rewards, and risks of teaching. This is a book of luminous insight and quiet but telling wisdom, about youth and maturity and the bridge of loss and remorse that connects them. Liza Wieland's is a mature and deeply moving vision, conveyed in prose that sings as sure and clear as the birds of her title." ---Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl Praise for Liza Wieland: "[T]here is a nobility and boldness to her characters that lends them a heroism missing from much modern fiction and makes these stories wholly absorbing adventures of the heart." ---Ron Hansen, author of Exiles: A Novel "Liza Wieland understands down to the bone how loneliness and love compel her characters to make their impossible choices. Not only does she have a searing intelligence and wisdom, her prose is by turns graceful and astonishing." ---Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World Liza Wieland is the author of four previous works of fiction: The Names of the Lost; Discovering America; You Can Sleep While I Drive; and Bombshell, as well as a volume of poems, Near Alcatraz. Her work has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, and the North Carolina Arts Council. She teaches creative writing and literature at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page and Copyright

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pp. i-iv

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-

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...

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Chapter One

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pp. 1-34

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...

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Chapter Two

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pp. 35-77

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...

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Chapter Three

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pp. 78-113

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...

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Chapter Four

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pp. 114-157

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. ...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 158-196

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...

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Chapter Six

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pp. 197-238

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...

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Chapter Seven

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pp. 239-268

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...


E-ISBN-13: 9780472025251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116720

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Michigan Literary Fiction Awards

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