The Corsican Widow is my latest Corsica novel. Like The House at Zaronza, it’s based on a true tale. The novel also takes place in the village of Zaronza on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, and in Marseille, France.
It’s not yet available, but I’ll keep you updated about publication dates. In the meantime, here’s a bit about it and an excerpt from the beginning.
Corsica, 1755: the island is struggling for independence against its Genoese masters. Can Valeria Peretti, the daughter of a strict Corsican family, escape what destiny has written? She is obliged to marry an older man, whom she doesn’t know, and later on has to make a choice that will have serious repercussions on her life.
The story looks at women’s role in a male-dominated society, their limited life choices and the harsh penalties for women who transgressed the rigid moral code of Corsica. It also explores the enduring effect of the choices we make and the extent to which we can influence our destinies.
Felicavo, Corsica: April 1755
The room was dusk-sombre. Darkness gathered in the corners and rolled outwards, mingling with the smoke from the fire. The only light came from the flames curling up from the central hearth. Valeria clasped her hands together on the scarred table top. The pulse beat in her throat while Margherita rubbed hard at the sheep’s shoulder blade with a cloth, muttering unknown words.
For some minutes nothing happened. The old woman stopped, took a breath and started to polish the bone again. A mirror-like sheen appeared in the middle. Margherita held it up and the light from the fire shone through. Her eyes grew wider. She turned the object over on the table and passed a hand over her face, which was as white as brocciu cheese.
A cold fist tightened around Valeria and she shivered. An unseen but malevolent presence floated in the air and skimmed her hair, like a bat’s wing. She gasped and brushed at it, but touched empty air. Gooseflesh broke out on her arms.
“What is it, Margherita? What did you see?” She grabbed at the shoulder blade. Margherita snatched it away and put it on her knees under the table.
“I saw nothing. There wasn’t anything there. I’ve lost the knack, that’s all. The magic didn’t work since I’ve forgotten how to summon it.”
Valeria’s heart drummed against her ribs. “You were afraid, Margherita. I could see that, and I could feel something here in the room. Why won’t you tell me what you saw? Was it so terrible?”
Margherita’s dark eyes reflected the firelight. After a moment, she sighed and shook her head. “I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t see anything. A momentary malaise, that’s all. It happens from time to time. I’m very old, don’t forget.” A thin smile accompanied her words. She glanced down at the bone in her lap. “Look for yourself, if you don’t believe me.”
Valeria took the age-smooth shoulder blade and studied it for a long time. She turned it this way and that and rubbed it herself, but nothing appeared on its surface. The bone was just a lifeless part of a long-dead animal, without magic powers. Whatever the presence was, if there had been one at all, it had gone. She was foolish to have been frightened, and yet…She shivered again and rubbed her arms. Margherita took the bone, replaced it in a sack and pushed it under the bed.
Perhaps she had been wrong to persuade her friend to read the future, but Valeria wanted an idea of what life held in store. Her marriage to Signore Santucci was agreed with her family, but, as usual, no one had asked her opinion or told her more than the barest of information. She didn’t even know what he looked like. In a few hasty words, Mother had explained that he was a rich widower with no children who wanted to remarry to continue his family line. That was all.
Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2017, all rights reserved