What if reading the wrong book could get you arrested?
In a decaying city controlled by the First General and his army, expressing the wrong opinion can have terrible consequences. Clara Winter knows this better than anyone. When she was a child, her father was taken by the Authorisation Bureau for the crime of teaching banned books to his students. She is still haunted by his disappearance.
Now Clara teaches at the same university, determined to rebel against the regime that cost her family so much – and her weapons are the banned books her father left behind. But she has started something dangerous, something that brings her to the attention of the Authorisation Bureau and its most feared interrogator, Major Jackson. The same man who arrested Clara’s father.
With her rights stripped away, in a country where democracy has been replaced with something more sinister, will she be the next one to disappear?
I was eleven when my father disappeared. It’s almost twenty years since the night I last saw him. I still remember that knock at the door; it echoes down through the years, as it echoed that night through the walls of our home.
I use the word ‘disappeared’, but it always feels like a lie. My father didn’t vanish. He didn’t walk to the shops for a packet of cigarettes and fail to come back. He didn’t run away to start another life somewhere, another family. He didn’t even leave behind a body, washed up on some riverbank, or slowly spinning from a straining tree branch.
That last night with my father was like every other. He returned late from his job at the university, where he lectured in English Literature. Public transport was unreliable in those days, when the regime was still taking hold. He would walk the five miles home each day, carrying his bag, heavy with papers. I would watch from our sixth-floor window as he made his way across the car park, past the burned-out shells of old hatchbacks, where the braver children would sometimes play army, machine-gunning each other with sticks or old bits of piping. His ragged hair would take on a life of its own in the breeze, his thin shoulders tensed beneath the weight of his students’ words, twitching uneasily at every fake bullet that came his way.
By then we had been moved into the flat. Shared accommodation, they called it. We weren’t allowed to live in our house in the suburbs any more. My mother mourned the loss of her rose garden and the expensive paper that lined our living room walls, its delicate floral pattern climbing from oak floor to corniced ceiling. She wept about the silverware she was forced to leave behind, a wedding gift from the grandmother who passed away weeks after her marriage.
Our new home became a one-bedroom flat, former housing association detritus that stank of cat piss and had holes in the plaster the size of fists. I slept in the bedroom while my parents shared an old sofa bed in the main room, which was littered with piles of my father’s books, the vibrancy of their spines bringing life to the beige world we found ourselves adrift in. He had salvaged as much as he could from our house, but my mother wouldn’t let him risk rescuing anything more. He would fret sometimes, struck by a jolt of longing for a particular book that had been abandoned.
We hadn’t long fallen asleep when the knock came. I sat up in bed, disorientated. The knock came again. It was dark, but I could hear my parents whispering in the front room, my mother’s voice low and pleading.
‘You can’t let them in. Think of Clara.’
My father snapped, ‘I have to, Lucia.’ I listened to them half dressing in haste. I could picture my mother smoothing her hair as he opened the door, a nervous smile on his face. I crept out from beneath the covers to peep through the slit in my bedroom door. The sudden light made my eyes water.
They barged in without invitation: four men in the black and grey uniforms of the Authorisation Bureau.
You can purchase this novel from Amazon
About the author
Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer form north-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.
You can follow the author on Twitter