Friday 13 November 2015

Between Here and Knitwear by Chrissie Gittins

review by Maryom

This collection of twenty-two, seemingly autobiographical, stories link together to build a single tale of a girl growing from childhood, through the teenage and adult years of wanting to escape from the restrictions of home and build a life of her own, to the time when roles are reversed and she now has to care for her parents into their old age.
Each story takes a moment - often of little importance in itself but which still marks a changing point in the direction life takes. The early ones are short memories of childhood, of running away and discovering a clutch of curlew eggs hidden on the moor, or of arguments between sister and brother, filled with references to the games and toys of the early 1960s. As she moves through adolescence, a family crisis looms, with her mother's nervous breakdown and frequent admissions to the local psychiatric hospital; a confusing time for all the family, not helped by health professionals who seem unwilling to explain what's happening. The years pass, the daughter and son move away to make their own lives but find themselves called back to help as ill-health now begins to wear at their father too.

 The writing style is sparse, economical with words and emotion, but still evokes an echoing feeling in the reader. The stories show the love between children and parents, and that between the parents themselves. My favourites were Power of Eternity and Upright Chair both of which deal with the difficult task of preparing the family home for sale, marking a very definite end of an era. Each story is complete in itself, and can without doubt be read as a stand-alone piece of writing, but I think the power of the collection comes from reading them together from beginning to end, seeing the overall narrative arc, how the relationship between children and parents changes over time, and the responsibility for taking care moves from one generation to the next. 

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - Unthank Books
Genre - Adult, short stories

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