The Nerve

Excerpt from the novel Glorious Boy

“The most memorable and original novel I’ve read in ages.” — Pico Iyer

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Photo by Aimee Liu

The behemoth’s coat of forest green undulated, dense and vast as a creature in its own right — a creature intent on driving the slender white snake of beach back into the ocean.

She’d heard his longing again in her ear when she repeated the words on her wedding day: I do. But her first view of the Andaman Islands put the lie to her own nerve.

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Photo by Steve Douglas on Unsplash

By design, the whole port functioned as one vast concentration camp, but since the inmates’ dominant crime was their will to fight for independence, Claire felt far more disgust for their British overlords than she did any fear of the prisoners themselves.

The Ross cantonment was the seat of British power for the entire Andaman archipelago, but to reach it, they had first to continue across the harbor to disembark on the “mainland,” where Port Blair proper stretched like a lizard’s claw out of the forest’s interior. There, whitewashed bungalows like those throughout India ranged along the slopes, and high on the lizard’s outmost knuckle stood an imposing fortress with rose-colored crenellations.

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Photo by Lewis J Goetz on Unsplash

The air had a queer golden vitality, like jazz music made visible.

They took a little wooden ferry back to Ross Island and tried to put the
prisoners’ cries behind them as they walked to the top of the ridge. There they landed in front of the low red gate to the Civil Surgeon’s bungalow. Shep flipped the latch, and they stepped through to a vivid green lawn ringed with coconut palms, birds of paradise, flaming heliconia, and orchids of every description. The bungalow itself had freshly whitewashed walls and a wide triangular red tin roof with gables at either end. A deep columned veranda ran the length of the house, overlooking the sea.

It was late in the afternoon. Thick stripes of jade-green ocean laddered to meet the sky. The air had a queer golden vitality, like jazz music made visible.

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Aimee Liu is the bestselling author of the novels Glorious Boy, Flash House, Cloud Mountain, and Face and memoirs Gaining and Solitaire. More@ aimeeliu.net

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