A solitary egg boiled furiously in the pan, billows of steam filling the kitchen. Duncan didn’t acknowledge her, just stared out of the window which ran with condensation, small pools gathering on the sill. Beth’s stomach clenched. The world had turned monochrome, the early morning optimism that today might be better, leeched away. What had she done – or not done – this time? Pointless asking. He wouldn’t answer. Yet another day of silence loomed, a day of sitting in separate rooms, eating at different times. Her gaze shifted from his rigid body to her dog, Jake, slumped in the furthest corner of the kitchen. His tail gave a half-hearted thump on the floor. He didn’t move, watched her with solemn eyes. She wrapped her arms around herself as the hall clock chimed the half hour and wondered how many days it would be this time.
Once she’d been able to focus on Duncan’s great sense of humour, his sensitivity, but now the good days were few. She couldn’t cope any longer with his suspicion if she left the house, the way he criticised, put her down. Was it her fault? Would things be different if she was different? Lost weight? Became a better cook? Went on top more often? She shook her head. When had they last made love? Her fault again, but desire wasn’t something that could be suddenly dredged up just because the other person’s mood had improved. It needed to be a slow build up and there was never enough time between his…episodes. Sex had come to resemble a fading newsreel.
She started as he got to his feet, the chair scraping on the tiled floor. He fished the egg out of the pan onto a plate and sat down again, his back to her. The sound of rasping filled the air as he buttered his toast before he cut it into quarters, the way he always did. He wore the navy blue bathrobe. She should have noticed the white one, the good mood one, had stayed on its hook on the back of the bathroom door. He hadn’t turned off the cooker. She watched the blue flower of gas, heard it hiss, listened to him tap the top of his egg with a spoon, then went into the hall and climbed the mahogany staircase, her feet soundless in the deep pile of the Axminster. Sitting on the edge of the bed, like a guest who has risen too early, she waited until she heard him go up to his studio on the third floor.
Jake rushed towards her, claws skittering on the tiles, when she came back down and opened the kitchen door. He pushed his head under her hand and tears stung her eyes. She dropped to the floor and hugged him, comforted by his warmth, the silkiness of his coat. It had been her sister’s suggestion to buy a Golden Retriever; she’d said they were loving and friendly dogs. Beth had never regretted her decision—she loved Jake to bits.
On the side stood the cast iron casserole dish containing last night’s lamb shanks, coldly congealed. She slid the dish into the fridge and took out a bottle of milk. Then she reached into the cupboard for the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, wrinkling her nose at the neat columns of Duncan’s vitamins, his bowel-opening fibre bars next to her Kit-Kats. A nutritional Nazi, her sister Maggie called him, said he despised anything pleasurable. The red polka-dot cereal bowl seemed too frivolous for the gloomy house so she put it back and took down a dark green one, tipped out a handful of cereal and poured milk over it. Her throat closed and she couldn’t swallow it. All the silent hours, all his rages, settled in her stomach in a single burning spot. She couldn’t do this anymore.
Beth’s spoon clattered into the bowl, splashing milk across the table as she jumped up. Out. She had to get out. A sliver of sunlight angled through the stained glass of the fanlight above the front door, sprinkling a waiting Jake with lozenges of red and gold light.
Beth buttoned her coat, pushed her feet into boots and jammed on a woolly hat. ‘Come on, boy.’
The sun struggled to rise above the elm trees as they set out across the frost-starched field. All around them the Yorkshire Dales rolled out like a gently rumpled bed, the querulous bleats of sheep filling the air. Cold scoured her lungs and she turned up her collar. Jake stretched himself into an excited run, turned and barked, tore back to her. She ran with him, on and on, her boots cracking the skin of icy puddles until the tension left her body.
‘Morning. Bit parky.’ A fellow dog walker, muffled into shapelessness, clutched a pink plastic bag as his spaniel squatted on quivering haunches, its expression embarrassed.
‘Certainly is. A white Christmas, maybe?’
Over an hour later when her fingers and toes had become numb, she knew she would have to return to the house. She dragged her feet while Jake ran backwards and forwards, barking furiously at crows pecking between the cart tracks. She hesitated outside the front door, then took off her gloves and felt in her pockets. Did she still have the car keys with her? Yes!
‘Let’s go and see Dad. You up for it, Jake?’
He’d pushed his way on to the back seat of the car almost before she had the door open. She held her breath as she reversed out of the garage - if she clipped Duncan’s Audi there’d be hell to pay – and edged out of the drive on to the B road which the council never gritted. The light had a raw, sharp edge and frost covered every branch like fur. She drove with caution, slowing right down on corners, only relaxing when she joined the traffic on the main Ripon road, which had been gritted. Now she didn’t have the constant worry of skidding, Duncan came into her mind. Why did she let him terrorise her like this? Had she always been so timid?
Beth’s surroundings, both in Yorkshire and Cairo, are nicely evoked, and we experience the sights, sounds and smells with her. There is an enjoyable contrast between the cold and “gently rumpled bed” of the Yorkshire Dales and the crushing heat of Cairo where “dogs slumped in corners, stunned by the hot sun” . . . Obsession is an old-fashioned tale of an unhappy woman who is jolted out of her routine and must make important life choices, given interest by the portrait it paints of Cairo and its people. ~ Phillippa Bowe Smith, Mslexia Magazine
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From the cold of the UK to the heat and smells and poverty in Egypt this story draws you in and weaves the story around you.I had to ration my reading to a chapter at a time so I didn't finish it too quickly. ~ Cowrie, Amazon
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This is Dianne Nobles third novel and I love it just as much as the other 2 previous ones., which were both set in India. She brings to life all the characters and you really feel as though you are there with them. Can't wait for her fourth. Would definitely recommend. ~ Julie Bunyan, Amazon
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Believable and Inspiring
Dianne Noble's descriptions are powerful without being overdone. They place the reader amidst the sights, smells and sounds of Cairo and Yorkshire. Being from Yorkshire, I enjoyed the authentic dialogue in the parts of the story set there. I've never been to Egypt but after reading Oppression, I feel like I have. ~ SallyJ, Amazon
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Gripping, Educational and Entertaining
The author immediately drew me into this story of women battling the violence of men, both in the UK and Egypt, and their fight against traditions, religion and oppression. It shows us how women the world over can develop strong kinships despite their religion, race or upbringing. She also excellently evoked the political unrest in which Beth becomes caught up in, as well as the heat, squalor and smells of Egypt. The reader can’t help but cheer on the well-drawn characters of Beth and Layla, and the other women in this story, in their battle. The realisation, once again, is drummed home of how fortunate I am not to live under such an oppressive regime. This was the first novel I’d read by Dianne Noble, and I’m really looking forward to reading her other books. Very entertaining and educational! ~ Elizabeth Perrat, Amazon
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well researched, written, interesting and gripping. ~ Amazon Reader
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