Under the Microscope extra: Gem of the Sea


01 February 2018
Under-the-Micro-20214.png Under the Microscope
Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's wartime women's fiction novel opening

Read James McCreet's suggested rewrite of Rachel-Louise Driscoll's wartime women's fiction novel, Gem of the Sea

Original version

“I want to get off this damned island.”

I was startled by my boyfriend’s words – but not completely surprised. I had seen this coming. The whole island had been talking about how close the war was actually getting to us; that morning it had become more than just talk.

“And where does that leave me?” I asked quietly.

“Come with me! You will, won’t you Ginny? There’s nothing to keep us here!” he said adamantly.

I shook my head. It was an unfair question to ask me. Bertie didn’t have any family ties in Jersey, but he knew what would be at stake for me if I left.

Allowing my silence to speak for me, I turned away to stare out onto the cornflower blue waters that were dancing beyond the beach, and willed the hypnotic movement of the sea to lull me.

“Let’s get married!”

A proposal was the last thing that I had expected, and for some reason I looked around to see if it was aimed at anyone other than me. It was stupid, because I knew that I was the only person that Bertie was ever likely to ask; and also because there weren’t any other people around. Just the two of us were standing on the pier, looking out onto a small, sandy bay. Gorey harbour was usually full of boats, but today claimed nothing more than the imprint of where they had once been drawn up on the sand. Clumps of seaweed still traced the lines where they’d dragged them to the tideline. Ever so slowly the sea was beginning to creep up the shore, erasing all memory of the marks carved by the departed boats. I had heard of ghost towns before – but a ghost harbour was something new to me.


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McCredited version

“I want to get off this damned island.”

I looked at his open, urgent face.

“And where does that leave me?” I said.

He looked down at the rough boards of the pier, then away to the beach and the sweep of the bay. A tideline calligraphy of furrows and keel-drawn seaweed marked the absence of boats at Gorey.

He looked up. “Come with me! You will, won’t you Ginny? There’s nothing to keep us here!” he said.

“My family, Bertie? I know that all this talk about the war... And now this morning, but...”

“Then let’s get married!”

“Bertie... I... This is unfair. I...”

 I felt my head shaking and looked away, out to the cornflower sea. It was peaceful out there where the sunlight danced. The tide was coming in and would soon erase all signs of the boats.

Read the full critique in the March issue of Writing Magazine