The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson – Extract

About The Book

A woman is found wandering injured in London after an air raid. She remembers nothing of who she is. Only that she has lost something very precious.

As the little boy waits in the orphanage, he hopes his mother will return. But then he finds himself on board a ship bound for Australia, the promise of a golden life ahead, and wonders: how will she find him in a land across the oceans?

In Perth, a lonely wife takes in the orphaned child. But then she discovers the secret of his past. Should she keep quiet? Or tell the truth and risk losing the boy who has become her life? 

This magnificent, moving novel, set in London and Australia, is testament to the strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

Extract

Even after all these years he still dreads plane journeys. The take off is the worst: the rush of tyres on concrete, the scream of engines, a crescendo of pressure in his ears. 

There’s a light touch on his hand. He looks down. Her fingers on his white knuckles.

‘All right?’ she says.

He nods, then looks out of the window. The plane is climbing steeply, the runway already a biscuit-coloured blur. The landing gear folds itself in with a distant thump and the engine steadies to a low throb. 

He wipes his forehead with the back of his sleeve and leans his head against the rest. 

She squeezes his hand. ‘Well done. You’ll be fine now.’

Yes, he will be fine. He always is. But this time there is another anxiety. Not the journey but the destination. 

He pats his jacket pocket and feels the firmness of the expensive cardboard against the warm wool. No need to take the invitation out again. He knows the words off by heart. 

And suddenly he’s a young boy once more, excited to be going on a long journey to a land full of hope and opportunity. How was his eager twelve-year-old self to know what was really waiting for him? 

He glances at his companion. They are deep into a long marriage; her face as familiar to him now as his own, her hair shorter than when they’d first met. His breath still catches at the sight of her. He reaches out to stroke her cheek. ‘I’m glad you’re here with me.’

‘Wouldn’t have missed it. It’s been a long time coming.’

He’s suddenly too choked to speak. He swallows and runs a finger round his shirt collar. ‘Forty years’ he says. His voice sounds hoarse.

‘Half a lifetime. But you got there in the end. Just as you said you would.’ 

The seat belt signs have gone off. She reaches under the seat, pulls a leather bag onto her lap, and reaches into it for her bottle of water. She passes it across to him.

He takes a long sip. She always knows the right thing to do. 

‘I just wish I’d got there sooner. It’s too late for some people.’

‘Those who can will come. And remember who you’re doing this for.’

He nods, then turns to the window again. The horizon is striped with brilliant colours: turquoise, orange, green – all radiating from a fiery, sinking sun. They’ll soon be hurtling through a dark sky in their metal tube, for miles and miles until they reach Canberra. And the ceremony they will attend.

This day is the one he’s fought for. He closes his eyes and the faces of the past appear before him. 

No one had listened to them then. 

They would listen now. 


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