the other side

not me

When another recommendation winged my way – this time about a book set in Ayrshire, I was ready to investigate that one too.

My father was born in Ayrshire, inland rather than at Saltcoats where this book is set, and I recognise some of the characteristics if not characters of people I knew. Janice’s mother often repeats the mantra that “things can always get worse”. My grandmother told me she had been in this country 60 years and the only things that had happened to her were bad and that she wished she had never come here.

The story is told as an adult but from a child’s viewpoint. Her experiences are reminiscent of the 1950s/60s when children were hushed out of the room and did not attend funerals so as not to upset them. All that did was make them curious and able to string together stories that were more manufacture that truth. And so it is with this child who grows up ‘knowing’ that she is a burden, unwanted and a nuisance. She spends a lot of time trying to remain invisible and to be compliant enough not to ruffle any feathers. Despite this there is a happiness that runs though this and the early part of the book when she describes the relationship with her mother is very moving.

This perception of her being a burden is helped along by the return of her much older sister to the ‘family home’ such as it was. She, it would appear, has some serious psychological stuff going on and is alternatively violent and caring (more of the former than the latter).

The story/biography ends as the child approaches 12 years old (I expected menstruation on every last page) and we know, of course that she becomes a writer.

It’s engrossing, and clearly evokes memories for me of the 1950s attitudes, although I think we were kinder in Dunedin, New Zealand. I enjoyed it. It’s a great read for an internal life, which mine is at present.


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