From ‘The Romancer’. my memoir in progress:
The close, passionate and sometimes difficult relationship between mothers and daughters features in many of my stories through different faces, different characters and different narratives. One prime example of this is Family Ties. In this novel we have an old mother with a middle-aged daughter who has a daughter in her thirties who has a seventeen year old daughter herself. This novel - a kind of Four Ages of Woman - probably has the most fictional truth deriving from my life. I have plucked elements from my own life for the second, third and fourth generations of the women in this story. But the oldest woman – Kate, perverse, independent, intelligent, secretive, charismatic – most clearly emerges from my deep experience of my mother Barbara. I realise this now, though I have to say I wasn’t conscious of this when I wrote Family Ties.
Excerpt from Family Ties -
Elderly Kate has had an accident and stays with her middle aged daughter Rosa, her thirty something granddaughter Bronwen and Bronwen’s teenage daughter Lily -
- … When she came here from hospital Kate was quiet. The hospital had shocked her more than she would admit. That and the accident. The next morning she was up at her usual time and in the kitchen before I could get there. The table was set. The cereals were standing to attention and she was stirring porridge in the pan.
I remembered my father in Coventry stirring porridge in a pan. And how happy I was then. Before she came back from her nightshift at the hospital. I remembered how, in the bad times at Butler Street, there was no breakfast because she was depressed and anyway she had to be at the factory by seven thirty. And how I fainted in Assembly.
Anyway on the first morning of Kate’s stay I fled upstairs without any breakfast, mumbling something about getting on with my work. I sat here at my desk and told myself that at my age I really shouldn’t be running away from my mother.
Since then I’ve managed to eat the porridge before I flee back upstairs to my study. But here I am, still disturbed by the sound of Kate talking to Bronwen and young Lily, what with the click and clatter as she moves my things here and there and the sputter and sweep of the Hoover. When I go downstairs the place will be tidy and shaved clean and all the ornaments will be slightly out of place. There’s no doubt about it – with Kate here I am slightly out of place.
… Of course she started this herself, by letting Bronwen have the bag of papers with the Tick Book in it. She knew what she was doing. Tick Book*, ticking bomb! Here I am, sailing along, quite content, then Boom! It floods back. Those years are on my mind again: hiding in the house like an injured rabbit; dancing behind closed curtains; writing in the Tick Book about how Brock came; battling with secrets. I weep for the child that was me….
*Shop credit ledger, given to Rosa as a child, in which she kept a diary.