'They sat at the table with cups of tea and digestive biscuits. Stan smiled at her and couldn't stop himself from nodding and saying more than once, 'This is the life, Elsie.' Each time she replied, 'It is, isn't it?' She was happy, telling him she'd turned on the hot water and switched on the electricity at the fuse-box. 'Everything is in perfect working order,' she said. A convicted murderer and a woman, shunned for her ugliness, meet by chance on a bus. Stan, recently released from prison, works in a warehouse; he tends to keep to himself, except for the odd thieving job. As for Elsie, it is as if she hardly exists as a person at all. Her mother tells her it's what lies underneath that matters, but Elsie knows those are just words. People find her unbearable to look at. Slowly, these two misfits are drawn together. Stan, on the run from an ex-con, asks Elsie for help. They go to stay in her uncle's seaside cottage in Dorset, and, over the ensuing weeks, sharing the chores, tending the garden, they become at ease in each other's company - two lonely souls playing at married life. They befriend a child and her grandmother who live nearby. But when Stan's pursuer closes in, things take a surprising turn...A Chance Acquaintance is a beautifully crafted novel of reparative love. Charles Chadwick hooks you from the first page and draws you inexorably in. A master of emotional restraint, he evokes the precarious balance of comedy and melancholy at the heart of things, and the bewildering resilience of the human spirit.
AUTHOR: Charles Chadwick has lived and worked in England, Canada, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Brazil, and Poland. He now lives in London. His first novel, It's All Right Now, was published by Faber & Faber/UK and Harper Collins/US in 2005, and is now being published by Luchterhand in Germany.