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Book extract: Unspeakable Beauty by Georgia Carys Williams

12 May 2024 6 minute read
Unspeakable Beauty by Georgia Carys Williams is published by Parthian

We are pleased to publish an extract from the debut novel by Georgia Carys Williams.


When you say your dreams out loud, they’re brought to life for others to kill. That’s what Mam always said. No one believes a seed will become a flower until they see it bloom. Some people will need to see it happen a hundred times and even then, they’ll have their doubts.

I wish it wasn’t true, but it only takes a whisper, and next thing you know, your dream – in all its delicious detail – is running wild in the mind of a stranger who can’t wait to put a pin in every arm and leg of your idea and watch its entire body squirm as it stretches for answers.

Over time, if you’re not careful, your dream will become so small and unrecognisable that there’ll be nothing left to pine for, just a flicker of a fleeting thought you once had. It was a stupid idea anyway, you’ll say, almost convincing yourself, but the uncomfortable truth is that something within you, months, years or decades later, somewhere deep down, will feel as heavy as the whole world but as hollow as a wooden Russian doll.

Dreams kept quiet, however, are as light as leaves; limitless. You needn’t worry about those. They make you feel invincible. You can do anything, be anything. There ’s no need to work out all the hows and whys first; you’re wise enough to know that if you did, you’d never summon the energy to execute your plan.

So, to look after your dreams, you need to hold them close to your heart and keep your lips sealed. When someone steals your dream, they sort of steal you too.

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be something extraordinary.

Part One

Secret Haven

Melody and I had known each other since the beginning. We were born at the same hospital, with only a day and three beds between us, me following her lead as I sautéd into my second world.

My skin was a bit bluer than it should have been, so together with Mam’s love for flowers, I was named Violet. Once I turned the expected colour again, and once we saw our mothers – all eyes and clouds of pink – we knew we’d be swaddled with them forever. After we left the hospital, we stayed only three homes apart, on the long road that rests not far from the edge of the Common.

I lived with my mam and dad on a smallholding in our ivory house, and Secret Haven was our back garden, but it was much more than that. It was a quiet, magical place they had created – all by themselves before they’d even met me.

Dad had laid the earth and Mam had planted the scenery, so together, they’d made sure it was a place where the very roots of all our dreams had enough space and light to come to life.

Over the years, as the trees took guard and Mam’s flowers bloomed, Secret Haven became more and more secret as well as beautiful. Mam said that was around the time I arrived, finally, after fifteen years of them dreaming me up.

At Secret Haven, Melody and I took the name of our world dead seriously, pressing our fingers to our lips and speaking in low voices whenever we discussed it at school.

Our secrets were always shared so delicately – through the graze of fingertips, the rub of shoulders, our foreheads resting ever so gently against one another’s, with eyes closed, so any thoughts could float freely – without being watched.

We didn’t realise back then that not all secrets are good, that some people’s secrets are just too dark to speak of.

That didn’t matter at the time. We spent so many of our days dancing at Secret Haven that it was almost the only place we knew. It was, after all, where we first learnt to point our toes, plié across the clover, lasso clouds from the sky and pirouette just to see how trees could twirl – before we even knew it was called ballet. It was where we learnt to collapse dizzily in the daisies just to gracefully get up and start all over again.

Secret Haven smelled of home; a mixture of cut grass, thirsty flowers and chicken business. And I was so glad it was my home, snaking all the way back from the ivory house with its cottage windows and sloping, charcoal cap, and then right to the end, where there was a hedge so high that we couldn’t see anything beyond it, which Mam used to laugh was her plan all along, so nobody could snatch us away.

But one late summer day stays with me more than others, rises to the surface like a bruise: changes colour depending on how I’m feeling.

I was nine years old. Everything was a flickering yellow and the rain had been hushed away beneath the twinkling blue sky.

I remember how still everything felt, far from the bustle of Mam and Dad’s barn shop and the cluck of hens, just opposite our Wendy House, as I – in my daffodil-yellow swimsuit – dangled on my swing under the tree of greengages, staring at my bony ankles and knobbly knees while I waited for Melody.

Some people may have found the place unsettlingly still, too comfortable a bubble, but I knew of the life that was brought to it whenever Melody arrived.

I remember gazing – one of those extra-long gazes – at Secret Haven, lengthening my neck and adjusting my head to frame everything in the best way, and then blinking to take a snapshot with my eyes. Perfect. That image is always the first one that creeps into my mind.

Unspeakable Beauty, the debut novel by Georgia Carys Williams, is published by Parthian Books. It is available from all good bookshops.

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