Last Quadrant

Synopsis

This second novel draws its electric energy from the havoc of a great typhoon as it bears down on a small orphanage in the Japanese coastal city of Kobe.

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Last Quadrant

English doctor Eva Kraig has spent her life making a home for abandoned children. Twenty years ago she herself has adopted the illegitimate, half-American daughter of Kyo, an orphan who had grown up in the home and had then turned to prostitution. Now Eva may lose her beloved Akiko, for Kyo — ravaged by time and drink — has returned to claim her grown daughter in the hope that Akiko will support her.

As the winds intensify, so do the private struggles of the characters. When the storm abruptly switches course, trapping everyone inside the orphanage, Akiko finds herself stranded with her adoptive mother, the natural mother she has never known and a trouble young American who has fallen in love with her.

In the brief calm of the typhoon’s eye, the group leaves the battered orphanage to guide the staff and children to the comparative safety of a wealthy English couple’s concrete house. There they must wait out the violence of the last quadrant — the wildest part of the storm.

As the refugees draw together in a fight for survival, their perceptions of themselves and each other take on new dimensions — and the terrible night becomes a turning point for each of them.

Reviews

‘Meira Chand has taken this theme and worked it exquisitely…Miss Chand’s exact and fastidious way with words is a joy.’

Elizabeth Berridge. Daily Telegraph 12th August 1981.

‘…sensitive and powerful.  The poetic quality of her prose…re-appears here with the same sensory conviction.’

Louis Allen. Times Literary Supplement 18th September 1981.

‘..this is a novel that will be remembered for a long time; and it will establish Meira Chand’s reputation as a very distinguished writer indeed.’

A.N.Wilson.  Spectator 1st August 1981

Excerpt

From Chapter One

‘May I come in then?’ Kyo asked.  She had not waited at the outer gate, but let herself in and approached the front steps, as if such familiarity was in order.  It was twenty years since Eva last saw her.

In the fierce light of the doorstep Kyo’s small figure was bright and hard as a chip of stone.  Eva blocked the passage with an arm before the open door.  From behind came the odour of stewing bones from the soup she was preparing, a bald and fetid smell.  Escaping the kitchen it seeped out aboaut her into the sun of the garden and the borders of marigolds.  Their colours were deep and velvet against the parched dry beds of soil.  Eva stared over the half moons of her glasses, and shock flushed in a cold dry burn.

Dropping her arm from the doorway, Eva moved a fe steps back.  Kyo’s cheap perfume sharpened her nostrils, before the cooking bones engulfed it.  The cloying film of make up was thicker than before, the lips pulped and soft from that secret life Eva knew little of.  But suddenly she saw again the fine texture of Kyo’s skin, stretched over the wide flat planes of her face, scrubbed and shiny, free of make-up, on that first day Eva brought her to the orphanage, more than twenty-five years before.  Now she thought, how changed she is, how old she has become, she must be forty-five.

Kyo followed Eva into the room but stopped at its carpeted threshold. ‘Not a thing has changed.’ She looked about in a deprecating way and then stepped boldly forward.