Saturday, 31 January 2015

In Memoriam : Telling the Sea by Pauline Fisk

A Safe Place
This is a sensitively observed and beautifully written account of a family trying to escape and recover from domestic abuse. The portrait of the mother, her unwillingness to meet other people's eyes, her vulnerability, unreliability, closeness to breakdown is brilliantly done. Her troubles blight the lives of her children and for much of the novel it is the oldest daughter, Nona, the central character, who must play the adult role. In turn this affects the second daughter who feels neglected, disparaged and unloved. 
The three younger children are not as fully developed but even the passing description of the third child Poppy "a world weary, thumb-sucking, eight-year-old who'd moved house too many times" gives an indication of the sympathy and the honesty that underpins this story. 
Their mother has brought them, she hopes, to a safe place, a grubby, leaking, ill-lit summer holiday house in the Welsh winter. This is a location personally important to the author but in terms of the narrative it's less the place than the other residents of this small community who help the family pull though. They're a mixed bunch - the good the bad, the eccentric and the troubled. Not an ideal community by any means but definitely a community which is what the dislocated mother and her children so desperately need. It seemed a pity that they ever had to move away.

(reviewed on Amazon Dec 2012 by Julia Jones)

And here's Pauline's blog about returning to the cottage with a film crew