Category Archives: Childhood

Malignant Memory by Barbara L. Paterson

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“Malignant Memory” by  Barbara L.Paterson is a novel that is based on true events, many of which the author learned about in the course of her career. As such, I found this to be an interesting insight into the lives of young people who were unfortunate to be brought up in orphanages or who had to attend residential schools because of their ethnicity in the first part of the 20th century. Many of the stories told by characters in the novel were horrifying to say the least.

 

The novel is told through the eyes of Elizabeth, who is a “secret keeper”. Over her lifetime, she has been told many secrets, which she has kept, but there was one that had caused her anguish. This is the malignant memory which she hopes to expunge by telling it to us, her readers.

 

In order for us to understand this secret and why it has had such an effect on her, she feels the need to tell us of her life. Her early days were spent on a farm with her parents and brothers, but she was sent to live with her little known grandmother, Andy. This was to enable her to have a good education. Life was not easy for Elizabeth. Her grandmother, who was highly thought of in          the town, was subject to uncontrollable rages – “the furies”- in which she would physically and verbally abuse her granddaughter. Eventually, with the help of some of the people who lived nearby and knew of Andy’s history growing up in an orphanage, Elizabeth and Andy worked at overcoming the traumatic experiences that they had and were suffering.

 

Towards the end of the book, after meeting several others who played significant roles in Elizabeth’s life, we are told what the malignant memory is and what she has learned about herself and others by disclosing the memory to her readers.

 

Although written in the form of a fictional memoir, with little dialogue, I did not become bored. As well as revealing some of the abuse suffered by the vulnerable, it also provided food for thought about grief, acceptance and being judgemental. All in all, an interesting novel that I am glad I have read.

I would like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and   review “Malignant Memory”.

About the author:

Dr. Barbara Paterson was an adult before she discovered that her dearly beloved grandmother had grown up in an orphanage. This information helped her to make sense of the uncontrollable rages that her grandmother often experienced. Later, in her work as a nurse with residential school survivors and people who experience devastating illnesses, she recognized that the ravages of extreme grief are often revealed in behaviors that are harmful to the suffering person and to those around him or her.

Dr. Paterson has an interdisciplinary doctorate in nursing, psychology and education, as well as a master’s degree in post-secondary education. She served as a professor at the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, the University of New Brunswick, and Thompson River University until her retirement in 2013.

Dr. Paterson is the recipient of several prestigious awards, such as the 3M Teaching Excellence Award, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and Canada’s Most Powerful Women Award for her work as a university educator and her research on chronic illness. Dr. Paterson speaks frequently on topics of education, health and Canada’s aboriginal people, and has been featured on top media outlets like CBC Radio and in more than one hundred scholarly journals. She lives outside Winnipeg, Manitoba.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Malignant-Memory-Barbara-L-Paterson-x/dp/0995332703/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490895354&sr=1-1&keywords

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An old gem: “The Scent of Water” by Elizabeth Goudge

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“The Scent of Water”, written by English author, Elizabeth Goudge in 1963, is, for me, a real gem.
I first read one of her books – “The Little White Horse” – when I was a child and fell in love with her style and beautiful prose. In my teens, I read “The White Witch” and adored it and now, I’ve read “The Scent of Water” for the first time and it’s whetted my appetite for more. A re-read of “The White Witch” is a necessity, I think!

Elizabeth Goudge was a writer for whom attention to detail was important. She was a wonderful painter of pictures in the mind, from descriptions of settings, to characters and thoughts. Her work is shot through with a spirituality which does not push religion into the face of the reader, but relies on the connections between the natural world and the people who inhabit that world, past and present.
I find it hard to connect this author’s work with a particular genre: some of her novels are historical; others could be classed as family sagas, while others have a slightly other-worldly feel to them.

“The Scent of Water” is set in the early 1960s and tells of a change of direction in the life of 50 year old Mary Lindsay. She has been a career woman all her working life, but has never forgotten a visit she made to her Cousin Mary, as a child. When the elderly lady dies, the younger Mary inherits the Laurels and all that Cousin Mary owned. The story continues and we meet the characters who live in the village. We soon learn of their lives and how they relate to Mary, her home and each other. We see how Mary discovers truths about herself that she hadn’t realised existed.

As I write this, it sounds so mundane, but within the pages of this book, there is so much to treasure. It may seem a little dated to younger readers, but for anyone in need of a gentle, yet thought-provoking read, this book would be ideal.

About the Author:

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Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge was an English author of novels, short stories and children’s books.

Born in Wells, she moved with her family to Ely when her father, a clergyman, was transferred there. When her father, Henry Leighton Goudge, was made Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, the family left Ely and went to Christ Church, Oxford.

Goudge’s first book, The Fairies’ Baby and Other Stories (1919), was a failure and it was several years before she authored Island Magic (1934), which is based on Channel Island stories, many of which she had learned from her mother, who was from Guernsey.

Goudge was awarded the Carnegie Medal for The Little White Horse (1946), the book which J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter stories, has said was her favorite as a child. The television mini-series Moonacre was based on The Little White Horse. Her Green Dolphin Country (1944) was made into a film (under its American title, Green Dolphin Street) which won the Academy Award for Special Effects in 1948.

A Diary of Prayer (1966) was one of Goudge’s last works. She spent her last years in her cottage on Peppard Common, just outside Henley-on-Thames, where a blue plaque was unveiled in 2008.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

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I had read only one of John Boyne’s previous novels – “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” – and was intrigued by the fact that he’d written a ghost story! I’m not sure why I was so surprised by this genre change, but it certainly piqued my curiosity.

 

“This House is Haunted” is set in Victorian times and John Boyne’s protagonist is a young woman named Eliza Caine. She is bereft after her father’s death and decides to leave London, in answer to an advertisement for a governess required in Norfolk. Her charges are two children, Isabella and Eustace. Before Eliza even sets foot in their home at Gaudlin Hall, there is an event which would have sent a more timid woman back on the London bound train immediately. However, young Eliza is made of stouter stuff as we see in the forthcoming chapters.

 

There are many supernatural happenings which lead Eliza to believe that all is not well and she fears for her life and those of the children as well. Her loyalty to her two charges is admirable under these extreme circumstances!

 

This novel has received mixed reviews, but I have to say that I found it to be a quick, fun read. I enjoy ghost stories as occasional reads and was entertained by this one. I thought that John Boyne captured the voice of the young Eliza very well and although some of the events were predictable, I was not bothered by that. I imagine that the author deliberately set out to make the reader think…”Oh, this reminds me of….” because there were several instances when I thought this, but again, I actually enjoyed the similarities.

 

All in all, I liked this novel and would recommend it to those who prefer their spooky stories without too much graphic detail of blood and gore.

 

 

About the Author:

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John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. But it was during his time at Trinity that he began to get published. To pay his way at that stage of his career, he worked at Waterstone’s, typing up his drafts by night.

John Boyne is the author of six novels, as well as a number of short stories which have been published in various anthologies and broadcast on radio and television. His novels are published in 39 languages. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008. Boyne resides in Dublin. He is represented by the literary agent Simon Trewin at United Agents in London, United Kingdom.

 

This Boy: A Memoir of A Childhood by Alan Johnson

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It is rare that I choose a book written by a politician, but I’m very glad that this one caught my eye. I had seen Alan Johnson being interviewed about this memoir of his early years in London and wondered how he eventually became a cabinet minister in the Labour Governments of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He described his home in Southam Street in North Kensington; it is hard to believe that slums like this still existed in the mid 20th century. However, what really piqued my curiosity was the fact that Alan Johnson began, in his interview, to mention places that I had known as a child. I had to read this book!

I was enthralled by this memoir. Johnson’s writing flows and he has the ability to paint pictures with his choice of vocabulary. It was easy to imagine him, as a young boy, battling with the poverty that surrounded him. His father abandoned his wife, daughter and son for another woman, leaving Lily Johnson to wear herself out, trying to provide for her young family. Linda, Alan’s older sister, offered real strength and support to their mother and one has to admire her, especially after the death of their mother. Linda’s fight to maintain a home with her brother, Alan, is quite amazing.

There are no real indications in this memoir that Alan Johnson will go on to be a prominent politician, but it is such an interesting book. As I said earlier, I have a personal interest and there were many times that I exclaimed at the mention of another occurrence or place that I knew so well. It seems that we both attended the Royalty cinema to watch Saturday morning pictures; the library in Ladbroke Grove was introduced to both of us at an early age….and there were many other instances. There is also much to interest anyone studying the social history of London life in the 1950s and 1960s.

All in all, I thoroughly recommend this absorbing memoir.