K. M. Peyton: A little hard on her characters?

August 31, 2017 § Leave a comment

K M Peyton is a prolific writer. She has written over 70 novels. I read six of them last week, published in the 1960s and 1970s. K M Peyton writes well. It is a balm to read one of her books, as against many a modern children’s author. Are there equivalents of Philippa Pearce, Margaret Mahy, and Jan Mark today?

Every children’s book today appears to concern itself with fantasy worlds, witchcraft and wizardy, or dystopias. The ordinary world has ceased to interest us.

K M Peyton’s books are, by and large, in the ordinary world. We tend to associate her with ponies and sailboats and aviation. She writes of these with authority. All the same, when K M Peyton writes of the supernatural (A Pattern of Roses), we believe in her ghost world. In addition,  K M Peyton has a feel for “period” language. We will not find modern slang embedded in the speech of a groom in 1911. In a recent BBC radio drama set in 1890s London, in one episode, or maybe two, we heard “I have a lot riding on this” (late 20th century?) and “grow my (the) business” (21st century?). When we hear such modern phrases in a period drama, we lose faith in the author. Why is the author setting a drama in an era that she is unacquainted with?

We don’t lose faith in KM Peyton. I haven’t spotted any sloppiness in the period detail or language. Not, mind, that I am poised to pounce on such mistakes: rather I feel disappointment, and a little resentment that writers who don’t take much trouble are published.

KM Peyton’s prolific output, however, may be responsible for one defect: a distance from her characters. In “Team” I met Ruth Hollis, a pony-loving girl whose pony Fly-by-Night was too small and she needed a replacement. Within a few weeks, she acquires a once familiar, but now broken down Toadhill  Flax (Toad). The pony used to belong to her friend Peter McNair. Peter’s father, a dealer, sold Toad on. Now Peter wants Toad back, but Ruth wants him too. Is she capable of managing a strong pony like Toad? Will she be able to repay her brother the price of Toad? Will she find a new home for Fly? In any event, you can take it that Ruth has a lot on her plate. At some time during the story, a girl who had been a keen rider is reported to have sold her pony (or ponies) because she has now become interested in boys. She is not our sort of girl at all. We are only interested in Ruth who must make great sacrifices to buy and keep Toad. Ruth triumphs at the end of the story. We are satisfied.

But what a shock awaits us in The Beethoven Medal. We know Pennington from Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer. He is a gifted pianist. But to the Hollis family, he is just a surly baker’s boy. However, Ruth, takes a fancy to him and pursues him. Toad has been injured and is recuperating elsewhere. Toad pays one visit.  As far as I can recall, Toad is dismissed from the pages of the book. It is all Pennington. We feel cheated. Ruth was the girl we were interested in; we shared her struggles over Toad but now Ruth has no time for Toad. We feel very let down. We can’t quite believe in the Ruth Hollis of Team. We can only wonder why K M Peyton didn’t make up another character to be Pennington’s girlfriend. Was it her “prolificy” that hardened her to her characters and enabled her to pluck them from their horsy world and throw them into a teenage-romance one?

John Rowe Townsend in Written for Children tells of a similar disappointment.

“The action of K. M. Peyton’s ‘Flambards’ books takes place just before and just after the First World War. Originally there were three novels – Flambards (1967), Edge of the Cloud (1969), and Flambards in Summer (1969) – which for twelve years stood complete as a trilogy.  In the first book, Christina who will be rich when she comes of age, is sent to live with her Uncle Russell and his two sons in a decrepit country house, financially undermined by Uncle’s passion for horses and hunting. The handsome elder son, Mark, would like to marry her and keep what he calls ‘all this’ going; but Christina prefers Will who rejects the family obsession and longs to fly aeroplanes. The second book centres on Will’s perilous life as an aviator; at the start of the third he is dead, and Christina returns to the old run-down house to bear his posthumous child, work the home farm, and marry the ex-groom Dick who loves her. As well as a romantic story there is obviously a social theme- the death of an old way of life and its rebirth in a new form – and the connection between them and the period is organic. It was First World War that broke up the old framework: the trilogy could not be transferred to any other time and retain its force.

In 1981, after the huge success of the television adaptation, Mrs Peyton added a fourth book, Flambards Divided. Inevitably, this changed the meaning of the other three: instead of completing the story they were leading up to a new conclusion. And the new conclusion was very different.

At the end of the third book, Christina had successfully carried Flambards into a new era; the omens, in her own phrase, were good.  In Flambards Divided, these omen turn out to have been misleading. Christina’s marriage to Dick does not work. Dick is reliable and hardworking, but narrow, class-conscious and different to Christina in temperament and interests. Handsome Mark, home from the War, not knowing anything but fighting and hunting, wins her affections after all.  The squire, it could be said, is back in the saddle – even if it is now the driving seat of a motor car. If the author had written the fourth book straight after the other three, my guess is that she would have done it differently and poor Dick would have fared better. In twelve year illusions can be lost. The new ending may be truer to life, but I find it somewhat saddening. “

In my view, the new ending may be truer to life but is not truer to the characters as they have been depicted. That to me seems to be Mrs Peyton’s weakness: she does not love her characters as her readers might and therefore can manipulate their lives in ways that jar with the original story and our expectations.

That being said, K M Peyton has had a long and distinguished career as a writer. She has now no equal.

 

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The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff (action takes place in the early 1930s)

September 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

What publisher would be tempted by a writer that suggested a novel dedicated to a lower-middle class family taking their annual holiday in Bognor?  The “novel” world usually concerns itself with people whose lives are more exciting than those of its readers (be it the extremes of wealth or poverty) and rarely with those whose lives are duller.

Writing about the commonplace takes considerable skill. RC Sherriff might have found (as Jane Austen did with The Watsons) that he had placed his people too low in society. Making people respectable and poor cuts them off from people who might bring drama into their lives.

The Stevens are respectable people with a moderate income. We do not anticipate that either Mr Stevens (50ish) or Mrs Stevens (in her 40s) will be unfaithful to each other, or that Mary (21) will be seduced and left with an unwanted child, or that Dick (17) will turn to some criminal enterprise to better himself. (Ernie (10) is too young to go to the bad.)

Whole areas of well-trodden literature are barred from the Stevens. Theirs are not the great tragedies of life but the milder (though long-lived) disappointments. Their lives are rather like our own: some successes, counted on, are not realised; expectations are blighted; and careers stagnate.

Mr Stevens, a clerk, never received the promotion he had thought his due. We do not feel that Mr Stevens was undeserving rather that he failed to push himself forward. The entire family, apart from Eric, lacks confidence.  The Stevens are easy to pass over, not because they are “unworthy” but because when passed over, they will make no fuss.

The annual family holiday is the high point in all their lives. This year Mary and Dick, no longer children, feel they should be going on independent holidays with their own friends.  But they are circumscribed by a lack of money and friends. People who do not have spare cash can find it hard to have friends. The cultivation of “friendship”, save when thrown together at school or in university, is bound to cost money.

Mary may go to a local dance and meet not very exciting people. She has an admirer but he is “no catch”. Mary works as a seamstress. She works long hours in a badly-lit room. On occasion she might help dress a young fashionable woman: a woman she has no hope of ever being. Long hours for little pay, then home. There is little on Mary’s horizon. Perhaps, she will marry a man like her father and contrive to bring up a family on a small wage. Or maybe she won’t marry and she will be swept into the services at the outbreak of World War II.

Dick left school a year ago to work in an office. His father pulled strings to get him the job. And although it is a fine position in Mr Stevens’ eyes, Dick dislikes his routine work.  After being captain of the football team at school, the job is a come down.

Mrs Stevens is a diffident woman. It is all she can do to manage and run her home. She has no outside interests and is not sociable. Mr Stevens first met his wife-to-be when he attended an amateur dramatic performance: she was one of the chorus. She was bright and she was vivacious. And Mr Stevens was extremely attracted to her. Mrs Stevens was never to be as bright or vivacious again. She soon dropped the drama. And after marriage, she showed no inclination to involve herself in any groups. That his wife should not be the bright girl he first met is a disappointment to Mr Stevens, but he is philosophical about that. She might have been many a worse thing, an extravagant woman who took no interest in her own family. Sometimes Mrs Stevens will drop her “aitches”. Internally, Mr Stevens winces. He is too self-conscious, and refined not to mind.  And at the same time he is aware, as we are, that the “aitch-dropping” is a small blemish.

The Stevens have had twenty summers in Bognor; it is not likely they will have many more. Twenty years of practice has enabled Mr Stevens to produce a complete list of “marching orders” (all those things that need to be done before they can leave). The house must be secured; puss must be fed in their absence and milk deliveries altered. Each member of the family is assigned duties from the orders.

To Mary’s lot falls the bringing of the canary to Mrs Haykin. A task Mary dreads. Mrs Haykin is a lonely old woman whose family has long grown up and gone away. Her conversation will be the same as the year before. Their meeting will be a reminder to Mary of Mrs Haykin’s loneliness, of the fact that the Stevens do not call in to see her enough: it is too hard to get away. And Mary’s own life is not so exciting that she can accommodate a Mrs Haykin. Mary is not unkind. And we feel with her.

We feel with the Stevens over many small embarrassments and anxieties. We can enter their world. It’s not too small for us and we are not above it because some of us seem to encounter just as many embarrassments, in our own lives.

Their holiday money is stretched to the limit: every shilling that is spent has been budgeted for. Mr Stevens is not frugal because he likes it but because he has to be. There is an allowance for morning buns, ginger beer, and Mrs Stevens’s port . . . . Their greatest expense is the hiring of a beach hut “The Cuddy” for part of the holiday.

For twenty years they have stayed at the same boarding house which is slowly deteriorating as their landlady loses her clientele. Mary and Dick are very conscious of the second-rateness of their accommodation. Mary compares their house with that of the young people opposite. They appear unhampered by landladies and parents. However much they too might want something better for their money, Mr Stevens does not feel capable of deserting a sinking ship.  They know their landlady is doing her best.

In The Fortnight in September. RC Sherriff achieves what is quite outside the range of imagination of most novelists. When other novels about exciting people in dramatic situations have passed out of our minds, the tale of the Stevens’ holiday lingers there.

(I don’t say that The Fortnight in September is a great book. But I would place it in my top ten favourite novels.)

 

Edith’s Dairy by Patricia Highsmith, re-issued by Virago

May 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

 

One of the novelist’s great difficulties is to tell a story that is worth telling. Such a story contains interesting characters in interesting situations. A great advantage of writing a “genre” novel is that the novelist, if she fulfils certain expectations, may write a satisfactory novel. In a romance novel it might be enough to write about a single woman in the market for romance and have some sort of romance or apparent romance happen.  In a crime novel, a crime, often a murder, should take place, and the police should discover the who, the when, and the why. Writing a genre novel is not easy but the agreement between the writer and reader is clear enough.

Perhaps, given Miss Highsmith’s association with crime novels, we expect a murder or something criminal to happen in Edith’s Diary. But even if we were poised for a straight novel, most of us, I think, would come away somewhat disappointed.

Edith’s Diary does not contain a satisfying story. There are three main characters Edith, her husband Brett and their son Cliffie. Their son is a difficult child. We never get to grips with what ails Cliffie. Neither do we get to know Brett very well. And even Edith is not clear to us.  At the start of the novel, the family moves to a countryish place in Pennsylvania. Before long the family is joined by Brett’s bachelor (semi-sick) uncle.  From the start it is abundantly clear that the uncle will make a nuisance of himself. No one seems to like him. And he is not a likeable man.  We, readers, however guess that he will enrich the plot.

We anticipate that the uncle will prove intolerable and Edith will react with disastrous consequences . . . We feel the same about Cliffie who does one silly/misconceived thing after another.  And Brett too, in a quieter way, is very provocative. There are many storms gathering on the horizon.

Long before the book opens, Edith has had the diary but has made few entries in it. There are few enough diary entries in the first half of the novel. The diary entries are usually, to some degree, fictional, particularly references to Cliffie. She gives a flattering account of him.  Are the diary entries a plot device that has not been properly, or even regularly, incorporated into the narrative?

Edith’s very nice Aunt Melanie is a regular visitor over the period of the novel. She disapproves of Cliffie and Brett. We expect her to do something to rouse Edith to battle. For all that Edith is supposed to have liberal, provocative opinions, she is a very passive character (unbelievably so) when it comes to dealing with problems in her own life. (The modern reader has lost patience with passive characters.) Brett loses interest in Cliffie and exits the would-be battleground. And the reader is wondering if the storm clouds on the horizon are ever going to produce any rain.

The diary entries in the second half of the novel become more disconnected from reality. Edith fabricates a life for Cliffie: he is successful and is married with children. All the things he is not.

The playing out of this novel reminds me of carousal in a fairground. We watch the carousal go round. We see the golden horse, then the black horse, then the white horse and again the golden horse. The characters in these books come round like horses on carousal. There‘s the nice aunt Melanie, there’s uncle George being a pest, there’s Cliffie getting into trouble, and there’s Edith writing something in her diary. But does any of it really matter? The characters do not fuse together to create dramatic incidents that would give this novel a plot. Yet from the start dramatic events are foreshadowed, or we think they are, but ultimately everything peters out.

Towards the end of the book, Edith succumbs to madness. Her “madness” seems to be brought on very quickly, almost as if Miss Highsmith wants to wrap things up quickly.The end of the novel is dramatic. Miss Highsmith brings the novel to an end in one of the most time-honoured, if unsatisfactory, ways.

Virago chose to re-issue this novel, and has gone to the trouble of providing a foreword, promoting the novel. And, no doubt, many of us reading the foreword feel intellectually unequal to it. To think that we, in our ignorance, should have dismissed the novel!  Later when we regain confidence, feel less intellectually inferior, we listen again to that internal hum of dissatisfaction that no forewords could silence

Surely there are novels that deserve to be re-issued more than Edith’s Diary does, or new novels that deserve a first publication?  Is the decision to re-issue Edith’s Diary simply a commercial one, a hope that money can be made from old rope?

 

Inquest by Loel Yeo

August 31, 2015 § 1 Comment

Loel Yeo’s ‘Inquest’ is one of the best stories to appear in the anthology, Detective Stories from the Strand edited by Jack Adrian.

Anthologies are often disappointing. The anthologiser make claims (of research and selection) which we do not feel can be supported by the stories he has chosen because we have seen them collected elsewhere. Another anthology of anthologies?

Or perhaps the anthologiser tantalises us with a statement like, rather than the much-anthologised ‘X’ story of author ‘Y’, I have chosen ‘Z’ story instead. We have read ‘Z’ story and have never heard of the much-anthologised ‘X’ story.

Despite the fact that Jack Adrian has selected his stories from one magazine only, the anthology itself is the best, as far as I recall, that I have read. In good anthologies, there is usually only a handful of really good stories, in an average anthology, one and in some anthologies, limited perhaps by year, none.

Another failing of editors of anthologies is in not telling us about the writers, save perhaps what he or she has copied from another anthology. Jack Adrian does not belong amongst such lazy anthologisers. He introduces all the writers, and even where he cannot identify them still makes elucidating remarks.

Of Loel Yeo, Jack Adrian says: Whoever he was, and whether or not Loel Yeo was his real name (anagrammatically, it doesn’t make much sense), he could write. And not merely competently, either. There is assurance in the style, an authoritive building-up of tension, convincing characterization, a telling use of irony. No wonder Dorothy L. Sayers, a fine judge of good writing, snapped ‘Inquest’ up in 1934 for her third and final volume of Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror.

Loel Yeo was PG Wodehouse’s beloved step-daughter, Leonora. PG Wodehouse in a letter* (April 8, 1932) to his friend Denis Mackail:

I am so glad you like Snorky’s story. I thought it was marvellous. It’s such a pity she writes with such difficulty. Have you seen a Snorky M.S.? She sits in bed with a very thin-paper pad and one of those pencils that makes the faintest possible mark, and in about four hours produces a page. Then she writes another page next day and puts ring round it and a hieroglyphic on page one, – that is to show that part of page two goes on page one, then you read the rest of page one and go back to page two, in the meantime inserting a bit of page four. All in that filthy, obscene handwriting of hers. Still, the results are good. Do egg her on to writing some more. I am so afraid this beastly dress business of hers will absorb her.

 

*From Sophie Ratcliffe’s P. G. Wodehouse A Life in Letters.

Is Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan van Mersbergen a literary thriller?

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

This post may give away too much of the plot.

A professional boxer and a family man meet by chance on a journey to the Pamplona Bull Run. The boxer is fleeing an unhappy love. The father hopes to escape his dull routine. Both know that, eventually, they will have to return to the place each calls “home”. From the blurb of Tomorrow Pamplona published by Peirene

This blurb misled me. The boxer, Danny, is not going anywhere but running away. Danny hitches a lift from Robert who is on the way to the Bull Run. Neither could it be said that Danny is fleeing an unhappy love. He is more immediately fleeing something else.

The Bull Run is an intense annual experience for Robert. His life is dull but I don’t feel that he wants to escape it. The Bull Run recharges him and he can re-enter the fray (ordinary) life once more.

In reading some other description or review of this book, I had the impression that some special bond is formed between the men. But the relationship between Robert and Danny does not develop much. Danny keeps his story, no wonder, to himself. But we, as readers, learn about him through flashbacks. Ultimately, Robert renders a great service to Danny: it is the least Danny can do then to drive him home from Spain. (The episode where Danny meets the old lady is a sentimental interlude that I do not think belongs in the book.)

Tomorrow Pamplona was unsatisfactory on its own and then suffered more by a contrast with Beside the Sea. I had sampled the opening section of both books but read Tomorrow Pamplona first and followed it with Beside the Sea.

I finished both books with the word ‘Hmm.’ For Beside the Sea it meant: this book gives me something to think about; for Tomorrow Pamplona: this book does not make sense.

I am well aware that as a reader I can be casual and superficial. In this way, there will be much that escapes me. However, even if I do fail to glean all allusions and metaphors, the obvious story must work.

My understanding of the boxing world is limited. I believe that Varon is a boxing promoter who arranges a significant fight for Danny with another boxer (I don’t think he was named). Varon supplies a sparring partner, Pavel, for Danny. An Asian woman called Ragna works for Varon.

Ragna’s relationship with Danny starts uninterestingly and unpromisingly with a sexual encounter in a boxer’s changing room. Perhaps you, readers, are forever walking in on people engaged in sexual activity in places where you least expect to find them. It has not been my experience of life.

Do we meet Ragna, get to know her, does she assume some individuality in our minds?

What is there to distinguish this relationship from hundreds of others in books? Do Ragna and Danny say one memorable thing to each other? Ragna satisfies Danny sexually, and the sight of her smoking in bed fascinates him, but does not fascinate the reader. Jan van Mersbergen appears to be endowing actions, smoking, with a significance they don’t have. Good characterisation is something more than these tableau vivants.

When I compare their relationship with the mother’s relationship with her sons in Beside the Sea I feel the world of difference: there never was such a mother who had such a relationship with her sons. It is unique, as relationships often are. I have not read of a similar relationship between a mother and children. But the novel world seems to team with relationships like Ragna’s and Danny’s. And, of course, no literary novel is complete now without that four letter word to describe sex. Another cliché. Perhaps I move in genteel circles where people make little reference to sex and, when they do, they don’t use the four-letter word to describe it.

The mundaneness of life (which in a bleak, and effective, way obtrudes in Beside the Sea) does not obtrude in Tomorrow Pamplona. Does anyone scrub a bath, or go out to the shop to buy a loaf of bread?

Although Danny is suspicions of  Ragna’s relationship with her wheelchair-bound boss, Varon, she reassures him that Varon’s below-the-waist paralysis precludes a sexual relationship.

Ragna goes to Thailand before Danny’s very important fight. Danny has arranged to see her off at the airport. When Danny arrives at the airport, he discovers Ragna has gone on an earlier flight. Varon, amongst others, is at the airport. He knew of the earlier flight: Odd and suspicious though this is, Danny is easily fobbed off with some less than acceptable explanation.

During her absence Ragna does not communicate with Danny. We are to understand that telephoning may be too difficult.

Danny trains hard for the fight. Shortly before the fight, Danny learns from Pavel that Ragna is back, she and Varon are in a nearby café, and she has some unexpected news.

Pavel describes Ragna as Varon’s Asian girlfriend. Would it not have been natural during their boxing bouts for Pavel to have mentioned this before or for Danny to have mentioned that Ragna was his girlfriend?

Danny rushes off to seek corroboration of what Pavel innocently tells him. It is quite extraordinary after all Ragna’s and Varon’s machinations (and I am not sure what the extent of them were) that they undo all their work by broadcasting information before the fight that was in their best interests to keep quiet about: at least, until the fight was over and they had departed for another country.

Varon, a boxing promoter, must have seen that a boxer should not be upset coming into a big fight. I assume also that Varon stood to lose financially, if Danny did not win the fight. But he appears, for what reason?, to be ready to risk everything.

Both Beside the Sea and Tomorrow Pamplona end with a similar act but I did not feel alienated in the first whereas in Tomorrow Pamplona what little sympathy I had for Danny was snuffed out.

Tomorrow Pamplona is one of those books that is too much of a mixture of things to succeed quite in being anything. There was potential for a reasonable story, never one as marked and as individual as Beside the Sea’s. Readers of thrillers would be disappointed in the plot and readers of literary novels, in the unconvincing characters.

‘Beside the Sea’ by Veronique Olmi

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

This account may give away too much of the plot.

A single mother takes her two sons on a trip to the seaside. They stay in a hotel, drink hot chocolate and go to the funfair. She wants to protect them from a cold and uncomprehending world. She knows that it will be the last trip for her boys. From the blurb of Peirene’s first translation Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi.

‘Beside the sea’ has cheerful connotations for most but cheerfulness (though there is humour) is not part of this story. It is a sad and terrible story.

Don’t we sympathise with all of the main characters, the two little boys who could have done with a different kind of mother, and the mother herself who is not coping and who has come to the attention of the social services?

We don’t, I think, learn what went wrong in the mother’s life. And despite her personal weaknesses she can provoke us to reappraise the world we live in. Where do we belong in this mother’s world? Would we be grouped, to our detriment, with any of those transient characters that appear in the book? Are our lives empty? Where are those people when they aren’t at the funfair? Maybe the girls sold shoes and the men were mechanics or delivered pizzas? Maybe they only laughed at the fair and the rest of the time they were just getting ready for it? (page 89)

When I put this book down, I could not say that I had caught all its meaning or understood all its implications but the book made sense, as many books do not.

Let us writers be confronted with a problem Veronique Olmi had to solve: she wanted to show the real affection between the two brothers, and to show it economically and movingly. She had to avoid ‘telling’: “The two brothers were very fond of each other.” So she wrote this:

His first word came one morning when he was lying on the floor with loads of cushions round him because he couldn’t sit up very well, he was blowing bubbles of spit, Stan was lying on the lino laughing, his head on his hands, really close to Kevin, and the littl’un leant forwards, he took a handful of his hair and said Stan. That was his first word. That evening in the kitchen Stan told me he wasn’t his half-brother, he was his whole brother now, I said okay. (page 101-102)

I wonder how long Veronique spent getting that right. Did it come to her out of the blue? Had she many failures? Other writers’ processes intrigue me. I imagine they are much more organised about writing than I am, and don’t waste as much time blundering about.

There is much else that is quotable:

Will you write a note? the littl’un asked as he zipped up his flies. That’s right, I said, I’ll write a note. It reassured him. There are magic sentences like that. I’ll write a note.  (page 53)

Apparently there are these priests, no, not priests, monks. Apparently there are these monks who pray for the sorrows of the world, day and night, never stopping, taking it in shifts so there’s never a break. Me, I don’t know how to pray. I’d rather not believe in God, it’s too frightening and, anyway, how can I understand God when I don’t understand his representative, the Pope, that rich, crumbly old man? God must be like a bunch of popes put together, thousands of popes in one single person, terrifyingly powerful. . . yes, but knowing there are these monks thinking of me night and day, that’s reassuring.  (page 61)

Keep an eye on your brother, such simple sentences, they belong to everyone and we say them all the time so they never go out of circulation. Our parents used to say them. And our parents’ parents. They’re sacred, compulsory, make you feel alive.  (page 62)

Kevin and Stanley were clean, they were ready for the night, as they said, yes, they often said, I’m getting ready for the night, it’s nice, getting yourself all sorted for the night, they never say I’m getting ready for the day, because daytime doesn’t really warrant it, you’ve go[t] to do it so you do, that’s all, but at night there’s a sort of preparation, like before a journey.  (page 95)

I remembered the day Kevin wrote a word on the wall, his first word, it was me, it was mummy in stick letters, he was proud and so was I, that’s who I was, he’d recognised it straight away, I was mummy, no more or less than the others, mummy that’s what I did, what I knew how to do, mummy, and I left it there, I’d never covered it with white paint so all the pictures had to be done round that word MUMY, like the little stick men he drew, maybe I even saw their hands behind their backs while the red aliens spiralled round me, and I showed it to the social worker, my name on the wall in stick letters, how could she compete with that?  (page 101)

What can we say to this French novelisat and dramatist but Encore! Encore! Encore!

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