Maud is old and losing her memory. She lives alone with a carer to look after her in the mornings and a long-suffering (this is not how Maud sees it!) daughter Helen in the afternoons. Maud becomes convinced that her friend Elizabeth is missing. So Maud decides to investigate. But her investigation gets confused with her memories of when her sister Sukey went missing just after WWII, when Maud was still a child. So we have one investigation in which unreliable memories of long ago are mingled with the misunderstandings of a child and another in which the increasingly unreliable memories of the present colour the understandings of this old person.
It was beautifully written. It was highly evocative of the difficult times just after the second world war. Food and clothes rationing prevent a weary people having the good time they crave. People are damaged by death and prisoner of war camps and hasty marriages are regretted.
The slow progress of the disease wasting Maud's memory is also hauntingly chronicled. There are terrible moments when she wets herself and when she gets angry with her daughter and when she cannot remember her daughter's name. These mingle with moments of comedy: the care worker who is always telling her about old people being mugged and attacked and the wonderful moment when she tells her daughter about the dreadful woman who works for her and is so untidy (it is actually her own granddaughter but she has forgotten Katy). And there are the heart-warming moments such as when Katy finds her in the street and takes her out of the rain (Maud has an umbrella but can neither remember what it is called no what to do with it) into a coffee bar but Maud can't manage the big cup so Katy gets an espresso cup and pours the coffee into that a bit at a time making Maud feel not clumsy but that her hands are too delicate for the big cup.
Both stories are woven together carefully. A lot of the extraneous characters are stripped away. We learn almost nothing about Maud's husband Patrick who is dead and we never find out at all about Katy's father, presumably the husband that Maud's daughter Helen had at one time. But those who are important to the story are lovingly created.
This is a terrible book if, like me, you have an elderly relative who is becoming increasingly forgetful and therefore increasingly vulnerable. But it is winderfully written.
March 2015; 275 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57