Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall
Initially in awe of her smart, poised and beautiful daughter, she’s appalled when Ingrid, decides to leave Andrew, the warm-hearted father of her young daughter, for the more volatile Kingsley, who fathers her son. But if she wants to stay in touch with Ingrid, she has to respect her choices, however misguided they may seem. It’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to be part of her grandchildren’s childhoods in a way that wasn’t possible with Ingrid. But when Ingrid discovers her secret, and Helen has concerns for her granddaughter’s safety, she might need to intervene more actively than she’s done in the past.
Alex Morrall’s debut novel addresses complex issues of race and identity within a compassionate portrayal of trauma-induced mental health difficulties. Thanks to publishers Legend Press for my review copy.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
by Jeanette Winterson
I loved it too on a second reading in August. A fiercely intelligent, poignant and humorous account of a writer’s quest to make shaky peace with her painful past. The adopted daughter and only child of a working-class couple in the Elim Pentecostal church in Accrington near Manchester, Jeanette finds refuge in the literature section of the library and in love for another girl, both considered taboo. She fights her way to Oxford University, and from there to authorial eminence, but fighting, stemming from defiance of her sense of unlovableness, thwarts her search for love. Bravely, she mines her madness, the split her off part of herself, to come to an honest ending where happiness is real, but provisional. A few things I’d forgotten from my previous reading: northernness as a thing; why a feminist would vote for Margaret Thatcher; Jeanette’s love versus Mrs Winterson’s hate for her body; the naming of the attachment theme.
Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay
I think she’d like the lack of fuss about being gay, and hope her son’s experience might be similar. She’d enjoy – and slightly envy – Jackie’s closeness to her adoptive parents and hope she could be part of her son and his husband’s life in a similar way. The fact of Jackie being black and brought up by a white couple – although not mentioned, contrary to what became considered good practice some years later – wouldn’t resonate personally (although I think this influenced my characterisation of social worker Janice in the prequel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home), but she’d be saddened by the accounts of racism from outside the family and the close-knit communist community in Glasgow and beyond.
I think, in contrast to Jeanette Winterson’s experience, Gloria would like the lack of fuss about being adopted. She’d pick up on Jackie Kay’s biological mother’s mental health issues and, perhaps latterly, the pleasure of connecting with her half-siblings, but she wouldn’t be sharing this with her book group.
That’s it for October. Click on the image to see all this month’s reviews. And if you catch this on Halloween, you’ll be able to see my seasonal link tree, complete with airborne witches and bats!