All Your Children Scattered by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse translated by Alison Anderson
Now Bosco is dead and Blanche’s son, Stokely, is learning about his heritage. His health makes travel to Rwanda difficult; his grandmother, when she visits the family in Bordeaux, is initially mute. Like Stokely, we get only hints of her suffering: first as a political prisoner, later starving in a cellar as neighbour hacks neighbour to bits.
I believe this is the first novel I’ve read that’s set in Rwanda, and I was keen to learn. For me, a more linear narrative would’ve made that easier, but I suppose the fragmentation is a more honest reflection of the trauma that nation has suffered. This is an important novel about colonialism, civil war and intergenerational trauma. Thanks to Europa editions for my review copy.
Sisters by Judith Barrow
Meanwhile, the guilt has led Angie to run away to Manchester, where she struggles to survive on the city’s streets. Eventually, she marries and returns to the Yorkshire village to be (partly) reconciled with her parents, albeit not with Lisa. (Here, author Judith Barrow treats us to some lovely descriptions of compulsive behaviours Angie uses to substitute for her lack of control.)
The sisters don’t communicate until their mother’s funeral, and the tension between them isn’t solely due to Lisa’s resentment. Should it matter to Lisa that Angie is afraid of her husband? Will Stephen’s malice affect her too? Another page-turning novel about fraught family relationships from the author of The Memory, shortlisted for Wales book of the year 2021.
Listen to me chatting with Judith Barrow about some overlapping themes – of caring and writing about mental / emotional distress and disabilities – in our novels, The Memory and Matilda Windsor is Coming Home.
Angie cringed when she saw the cereal bowl centred on the kitchen table. Her shoulder screamed as she scraped at crusted oats with a lacquered nail. If he could dislocate a joint for ‘smiling inappropriately’, he could murder her for being a sloppy housewife.
Yet, despite the pain, she smiles as she stirs the batter in the baking bowl. She’s doubled the sugar to disguise the taste of strychnine, doubled the chocolate to inspire him to take a second slice. She did hesitate between hot pudding and tray-bake brownies. But everyone knows revenge is a dish best served cold.