Read The Moment You Were Gone Online
Authors: Nicci Gerrard
Nicci Gerrard writes for the
and is the co-author, with Sean French, of the best-selling Nicci French thrillers. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and four children. Her novels
Things We Knew Were True
are both published by Penguin and received rave reviews. This is her third novel.
To my parents
âThe writing is subtle, poignant and tremendously skilful. She brings great tenderness and insight to bear on a story of surviving the pain of everyday life. And within that context, she is not afraid to take on big themes: life, love, death, illness and the inescapable influence of families. Her characters are complex and thoughtful, especially self-deluding Adrian and Irene, who is not âpoor Irene' at all when she discovers her husband's deception but marvellously, shamingly furious. As in
Things We Knew Were True
, there is a âsecret ending', in this case a shocking revelation which throws not just certain scenes but the entire novel into a tragic new light. It sent me back to the beginning, trying, like Irene, to make sense of the past, rereading conversations which were already highly emotionally charged but which take on a heartbreaking new meaning when you know at last quite how much she has lost.'
âI have never before read an example of this genre that so accurately portrays the disintegration and ultimate death of self caused by the discovery that all your past existence was a lie and the future you were moving towards is no longer possible.'
âTruthful and wise â¦ this is a fine anti-romance.'
âIn this unpretentious and page-turning account of a marital breakdown, Gerrard writes tenderly about marriage, children and the comforts of domesticity. Transformation is the reward of every good heroine, and Gerrard sorts out Irene's mess much better than any marriage counsellor.'
âAcutely observed, this is modern relationship territory with a twist.'
âInsightfully and beautifully written.'
âNicci Gerrard writes of ordinary people and gets under their skins â and she'll get under yours too.
is about more than just motherhood and
marriage on the brink. It's a story about real love and its consequences.'
âAn intoxicating, bittersweet breath of fresh air.'
âA heartening story of a woman betrayed by her husband who slowly realizes she has her own passions and dreams to follow.'
âA very clever book â¦ about female desire â¦ a book with a secret ending.'
âBeguiling, poignant, wonderful.'
ââ¦A quietly impressive novel that isn't afraid to take on big themes of life, love and the inescapable influences of families.'
âA skilfully observed book about grief, sibling relations and first love.'
âGerrard brings tenderness and insight to a story of surviving everyday life.'
Harpers and Queen
âLove and married life are explored with candour and affection â¦ Gerrard proves she is a skilled observer.'
âA thoughtful tale of love, sibling rivalry and family secrets.'
âWell observed, touching, thoughtful, sensitive â¦ sure to strike a chord.'
âSuch beguiling candour and clarity â¦ poignant and all too true to life.' Helen Dunmore
âIn Nicci Gerrard's novel
Things We Knew Were True
, the past is not a sunshine destination, but a treacherous place freighted with emotional danger and damage â¦ [It] describes the way time erodes even the most precious of memories.'
âThis tale about middle-aged angst is quietly compelling.'
âA moving and perceptive insight into deception and renewal.'
âPoignant and true to life.'
Someone, somewhere, was calling her name, but Gaby could not move. Not up, into the thinning branches that were straining and creaking in the wind; not down, to the far-off safety of the unattainable ground. She could only stay exactly where she now was, hugging the trunk of the beech tree, her cheek pressed against its rough bark. Her left hand was stretched above her body, gripping a stump; her right hand was twisted awkwardly into a small hollow and her wrist throbbed with the pressure. She was quite sure that if she took away either hand, she would fall; she could already imagine her body crashing through the twigs and leaves on to the hard earth beneath. She shifted her weight fractionally and felt the branch on which she stood move. It was going to break under her weight, she thought. Or her hand, sweaty with fear, was going to slide off.
Gaby looked up. Through the leaves, which were still sticky with newness and rippled queasily in the sunlight, she saw the blue slab of the sky. White clouds hurtled past. The tree was tipping towards her. She pressed herself closer against the trunk, feeling she must fall backwards at any minute.
She looked down, at where she had come from. Her heart gave a wild lurch. The branches were like hundreds of quivering veins; the leaves, ruffled by the wind, were in continuous green motion. Beneath them she could
see ground, which no longer seemed solid, but churned uneasily like a sluggish brown river. A tiny whimper escaped her. Her heart chugged in her chest; her breath rasped painfully; her calves burnt, her palms stung and her wrist ached. A little trickle of blood ran down her cheek, irritating as a fly that she couldn't swat. She put out her tongue and caught its ferrous taste on the tip. Soon, she thought, she would let go because she couldn't wait any longer to fall. She might as well get it over with.
âGaby â you mustn't look down,' said a voice.
âThere's a branch just under where you're standing. If you move your left foot down and a bit to the left you'll feel it. It's quite thick.'
âCourse you can. It's not hard, really.'
Gaby lowered her foot gingerly, feeling about with her toes. Her throat was thick with fear; her mouth was chalky.
âA bit more down, just a witchy bit. There. Now your right hand. There's a branch by your waist.'
âBut I can't let go.'
âWell, you have to let go some time, don't you? You can't just stay there. Shall I get help?'
âNo! Don't leave me.'
âOK, then. Just move your hand a little bit. There â that was OK, wasn't it? So now you can move your left hand down. That's it. And then your other foot.'
As Gaby stepped on to the lower branch, she felt a hand close round her ankle, just above her trainers. It was dry and warm, and it made her feel slightly safer.
âSee? I'm standing on the big fork so you're just about there.'
âOne more big step, but I think you can reach it OK. You'll have to move your right hand down again, but there's a branch in front of you.'
Gaby stretched her right foot down and lowered herself after it. Her left knee was almost under her chin and her arms quivered from the effort of hanging from the branches. She looked down and saw a face peering up at her through the kaleidoscope of leaves, the firm jaw and turquoise eyes. A hand stretched up towards her.