The Men, the debut novel from environmental campaigner Fanny Calder, was originally published by The Real Press in 2016.
It is now being relaunched and I am delighted to be sharing an EXTRACT with you all AND a TWITTER GIVEAWAY of one signed copy for one lucky winner.
The Men is described as ‘a darkly brilliant debut novel, a raw and unflinchingly honest narrative with stripped down language that is liberating and sometimes challenging. It is a tale of urban human connections crafted with no judgement or deep introspection – a window on the author’s own life at that time that will resonate and stay with you.’
Please read on for more details…
[ About the Book ]
City life in the 1990s. Anonymous, intense, paradoxical and sometimes lonely.
A young, haunted woman falls in love with a singer. She finds she has been consumed by the relationship and when it ends – as it inevitably does – she feels unable to quite rediscover herself.
Cities can draw you into even darker places, and she embarks on a series of intense relationships with thirteen men of very different types, from a rough sleeper to a millionaire, and from a transvestite to a leading politician.
As she is propelled through a series of extraordinary adventures and wild parties she finds she begins to lose her own identity. Is there a way out?
EXTRACT – from the chapter called Rich Boy
At last, I am sleeping in his big soft bed, draped in the bone dryness of his fine clean linen and I should feel relief, I want to feel relief, but I cannot because – in his sleep – he has thrown himself across the bed diagonally, with his arms flung out, and there is no room, or at least only a corner of room, for me.
I try to rearrange him, to make room for myself, but, each time I do, he spreads himself again, claiming the whole bed. So I try sleeping close to him, my head on his small strong shoulder or my neck on his thick arm but there is no give in him, nowhere comfortable on his body that I can find, no accommodation.
I wake him once, and tell him that he is pushing me out of his bed, and he laughs and says “I’m so sorry beautiful,” and sounds as if he means it. A few seconds later, he is asleep again and pushing me away.
This seems to go on for hours. I cannot bear not to sleep in the room, now I am here, so in the end I walk carefully in the dark to the corridor room and get the futon and my old duvet and I drag them into his room and lie the futon along the bottom of his bed. I take one of his pillows with its fine clean linen pillowcase so that I feel a little closer to him and then finally I fall into sleep. My last thought is that I am like a dog, sleeping here at his feet.
In the morning, I expect some change in our relationship, but he just laughs at me and whirls off into his day.
I spend several weeks trying to sleep in his bed and, every night, he pushes me out of the bed and I end up at his feet. His glamorous bedroom is made cluttered and uncomfortable by the lumpy futon, which after a few nights I stop dragging back into the corridor room in the mornings. It is my one grotesque claim on his territory.
During the days, I only pass him briefly in the kitchen, and the Filipino woman is almost always there too, so there is no intimacy. He continues to work late into the evenings and hardly communicates with me while he works, so by the time he comes home I am exhausted by my own work and enraged by his ignoring me and pushing me out of the bed. So we no longer talk or drink or stare out at the hill rising up against the night sky.
I cannot understand why he does not want me now, after all his wanting me. He still claims to want me when I ask him. But I only get a few glancing blows of affection from him so I am starting to wilt.
I corner him in the kitchen one morning. I ignore the Filipino who is polishing a chrome dustbin. “Why can you never make time for me?”
His eyes stay glued to his phone as he answers. “I shouldn’t need to make time for you. We’re here together, aren’t we?”
“But I want to spend real time with you. Time when I am not being kicked out of bed. We need to have adventures.”
“You mustn’t be so high maintenance. You know how busy I am.”
I am brushed off.
He makes one attempt to mollify me. Takes me to a vastly expensive restaurant on the other side of the city and orders an exquisite fourteen course tasting menu that is cooked and brought to our table by a famous chef. My sleepless exhaustion has brought on a filthy cold and I can smell and taste nothing.
A week later, I leave and go back to the stained nowhere flat, taking the futon with me because I still can’t bear to sleep on the mattress that Noel soiled. I am surprised that the small man notices that I’m gone, but he turns up late that night, looking nervous. “Why have you gone?”
“You gave me no time.”
“No. You’re right.”
“I needed you to make time for me.”
“I need someone who doesn’t need time.”
“I’m not sure if anyone is like that.”
“Oh I’m sure I’ll find someone.”
And with that he leaves, and I feel sad.
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Winner will be announced Friday 16th August 2019
Who is Fanny Calder?
Fanny Calder is a writer and environmental campaigner who lives in London with her daughter, her poodle and her whippet.
She no longer goes to quite so many parties!