16/01/2009

Just One More Day (by Susan Lewis)

I'd never heard of Susan Lewis, and probably wouldn't have chosen this book on my own. But a friend lent it to me. I picked it up about a week ago, and found it very readable. It's a biographical account of the author's childhood, when her mother was battling cancer. It's cleverly told from two perspectives - eight-year-old Susan's own, and that of her mother Eddress.

The background is of a struggling family in Bristol in the 1960s; the mother is strict, and ambitious for her children, the father a delightful man who reads to them, plays with them, and likes to write poetry.

I could picture the father easily; the mother is of an era and type I have not really come across, shouting at her children when they needed encouragement, coercing them into behaviour she thought was good for them, and denying them simple pleasures like playing outside with friends.

Yet she does this out of ignorance, not malice. She genuinely cares for both her children - for Susan and her younger brother Gary. Yet she seems incapable of understanding her feisty and imaginative daughter.

I also found myself rather horrified at the way the parents - particularly Eddress - tell lies to their children on a regular basis. In the early chapters, Eddress has a mastectomy, but the children are told she's working away from home. They have no idea she is in hospital. So Susan imagines something worse - that her mother has another family, and may leave them permanently. She suffers at school, too, since other children know more about her parents than she does.

The images portrayed are vivid and realistic, the writing very well done, and the story told in a way that left me wanting to know a great deal more about Susan's later life.

I seem to be reading more biographies and autobiographies than I used to, and mostly enjoying them. This one certainly isn't in a traditional style; the parts written as Eddress must have been at least partly fictional, even if she asked her father and other relatives for details of conversations. She can't possibly have known what her mother was feeling and thinking - and yet the whole is very believable.

Definitely recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 16th January 2009

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