When I reviewed Elizabeth Harrower‘s The watch tower the other day I wanted to fill it up with quotes from the book because her writing is so delicious. And that means, of course, that it is perfect for a Delicious Descriptions post. The one I’ve chosen occurs at the end of Part 2 (of three parts). I like it because it, albeit briefly, describes place – central Sydney in the mid 1950s – as well as one of the characters – Clare. It’s quite a long quote but here goes:
… The well-dressed, prosperous crowds pushed off the ferry, slipped coins into the ancient turnstiles and clanged through, out onto the concourse of the Quay.
Even as early as this, the small shops were busy – the bread kiosks, milk-bars, dry-cleaners and delicatessans. And he was at his usual post. He recognised her as she went towards him. Every week he looked smaller in his loose navy-blue uniform, and frailer and dustier; every week she thought he would be missing.
The morning breeze that lifted her hair and flapped the old man’s uniform was seaweedy and salty. Traffic rumbled. People ran. Clare stood before the old man and let some shillings drop into his box. The small Salvation Army soldier watched her and she watched his lips and weak blue eyes, waiting, determined. (Yet she might be rebuffed.)
‘God bless you,’ he said simply, looking at her like a child.
Oh! — Clare relaxed. ‘Thank you,’ she murmured. She was blessed, who was most in need of blessing. Blessed.
Having received what she had paid for, she moved on.
I love what this says about Clare’s desperation … and how Harrower conveys it through such a normally mundane scene. She shows how a typical, simple transaction becomes something way more while busy, purposeful Sydney life goes on around it, unaware, reflecting the world’s oblivion to what Laura and Clare are submitted to, day in and day out. I also like the sense of the giver being desperate to receive. Finally, it shows how Harrower can build up tension. Who is he? Why is she going towards him?