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She, You, I
Publication date: January 11th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
An emotional page-turner of a story about a family torn apart by the legacy of war that asks the question: what happens to the hurt we can’t forget?
When Skye Stanhope returns to her grandmother’s childhood home, she’s searching for the roots of her life story. Why her tough-minded granny ran away to war. And why her brilliant mother died.
Behind the women’s successes, lies deep trauma. As Skye strips away the layers of secrecy, she confronts their inner torments: forces that bound the women together, but also tore them apart. It’s a journey from a poverty-stricken tenement block to an airbase in wartime Suffolk, through boom-time London to a coffee cart beside the sea.
Woven into the women’s lives is Tseng Hsiao Ling, a feisty, enigmatic seamstress whose fortunes become inextricably linked with theirs.
It’s a sweeping tale of love, war and family secrets over three generations.
Through each woman’s story, “She, You, I” holds up a mirror to the complexity of family relationships: mothers, sisters, daughters, and the unexpected twists in Skye’s search for closure.
She was safe under the bed. Metal strips above, bare boards below, her father’s tin trunk behind—name, rank, number engraved on its lid. “All you need to know about a man,” her father said. A blanket hung over the edge of the bed. Maisie lay behind it and clenched her fists against her chest to keep in the fear.
Tonight was bad.
Shouts from the kitchen. Them fighting. She curled up and squeezed her eyes shut, covered her ears to make it stop. Anything to make it stop.
“You’re my wife.”
A scream from the kitchen ran through her body. And then another, and another, until the whole night became a scream. She tried to block it out, but she couldn’t. It was inside her ears, inside her head. She was the scream. And then it stopped. She took her hands from her ears and listened. Nothing. Silence.
Maisie lifted the blanket and peered into the room. Gaslight from the street spilt over the tattered strip of net curtain nailed across the window. It glinted off the broken mirror above the empty fireplace, touched the two best chairs on their square of worn carpet, and lit up the locked front door out to the landing of the tenement.
In the far corner was the door into the other room, the kitchen. A spindly table stood next to the door, with a piece of lacey cloth draped over it, “To hide its legs,” her mother said, and on it was china figurine of a man in a kilt with a lamb around his neck and a dog at his feet.
Beside the figurine was a photograph in a round frame of pleated cloth. Her mother, Flora, her hair swept up into a chignon and set with glittery jewels—only glass, she said—sat on a chair and behind her stood a soldier, uniformed, his face unmarked, handsome, with jet-black hair and a wide moustache that curled up at the ends like a smile. Her father, Simon. One arm was crocked behind him, the other stretched along the back of the chair, cradling her mother, and the greys of their clothes swirled around the whites of their faces and blended into the beige of the fabric that enclosed them.
The night the glass in the frame got broken wasn’t as bad as this.
Sally writes novels about the things she’s passionate about—the triumphs and tragedies of people’s lives, their families and life stories.
It’s what originally took her into journalism and then politics, in the UK and beyond. She spent her early years in the USA, Switzerland and Australia, returning to the UK after working as a journalist in South Africa. After serving as an MP, she worked in international development and travelled widely, especially in Africa and South Asia.
“She, You, I” is her first novel. She’s written nonfiction previously. Sally splits her time between Northampton and Bawdsey, a village in coastal Suffolk.