The deliberately truncated title of this harrowing account of “family life”, in the bleak landscape of 1950’s Aberdeenshire, appears to reflects not only a lack of closure for the infant victims but a social welfare vacuum into which all adult morality has disappeared.
This is the deafening silence of a collective guilt captured by Frances’s heart rending memoir of a childhood violently erased by unconscionable parents who were seemingly allowed to act with impunity in a post-war environment where behavioural norms had seemingly regressed into the Dark Ages.
As she approaches the end of her life Frances’s diarised recollections provide both a searing conduit into the black hole of her parents irredeemable gaze and a forum to expunge her past and provide a cathartic release in advance of her imminent death.
The rawness of the author’s narrative makes you inadvertently recoil at the pain endured by the six children as the abuse corrodes their innocence and leaves them mutely sleep walking into adulthood. The descriptions of daily existence make no allowance for the reader’s sensibilities and this makes the experience both uncomfortable but compelling.
Marcus is Frances’s ally as they effectively work “behind enemy lines” in a fight to eke morsels of enjoyment and hope out of an existence that sees potential saviours, from the local doctor to school officials, unable or unwilling to recognise the pleading anguish in the eyes of those not old enough to have a voice.
As approaching death inevitably mellows her we reflect on the unbearable pain Frances conveys of a childhood destroyed by violence. Yet we are also left wondering about the apparent blanks in her life and how the need to forget in order to move forward has only latterly been superseded by the need to live and remember, before it’s too late.
This is not a read for the faint hearted but a story for those who want to understand a truth seen through an unfiltered and unforgiving lens…
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