Can you picture being a woman of fifty, a single mother, working in a dead-end underpaid job, ex-husband remarried with a new baby, older children pre, during & post university, one of them in trouble at school, concerned about an ageing parent, kilos of potatoes to peel every day and only Radio 3, the possibility of tulips in spring, a best friend, a sense of humour and a transactional relationship with an employee of the Office of Budgetary Responsibility to keep you going? Then this is the novel for you.
Like Rachel Cusk on Valium or Helen Simpson mainlining cheap white wine, Lorna Parry will raise a wintry smile of recognition in any parent who has calculated they’ll drive up & down the M23 forty-eight times before the middle one finishes his degree. The book is serious, too, and recognises the fatal consequences of a misplaced act of cruelty; but ultimately it is a comedy, albeit one in which the laughter has a manic edge. Above all Davey skewers us with the knowledge that everything is in a state of flux. Her ex, amid his taxonomy of reasons for leaving the family home, describes her as a calendar, a momento mori of the countdown to the grave which he hopes to pre-empt with a new beginning; but Lorna know change is inevitable and that small shifts occur for women throughout their lives, to be embraced not avoided. Trying on clothes with a view to a wardrobe decluttering she notes that ‘These sessions that might or might not fill a carrier bag for the charity shop prove what I do not quite believe, that we are a succession of selves rather than a single identity. I am not the woman who bought that skirt’.
With soil under my fingernails as I frantically plant out the spring bulbs between chivying a child back to university & supporting a parent in need of succour, she may not be but I definitely am . . .