Walking Naked by Nina Bawden was first published in 1981 but my copy is a Virago reprint from 1992. It all feels very autobiographical but I gather that Bawden habitually plundered her own life for use in her novels.
The action takes place on one day. Laura is an author and is happily married to Andrew who is her second husband. He’s successful and socially adept where Laura is awkward and uncomfortable. It begins with Andrew playing a game of tennis with a visiting American business contact, with the wives looking on.
It’s a busy day as next on the agenda is a prison visit to Laura’s grown up son by her previous husband. The son is being charged with drug smuggling, he’s either guilty or a complete idiot. It’s a situation that finds Laura and Andrew feeling powerless, an unusual state for them to be in.
Laura is carrying a lot of baggage from her wartime childhood when she felt abandoned by her mother. Her anxiety manifests itself as a fear and dread that her home is silently being attacked by dry rot and is about to tumble down around her and her family.
But it’s Laura who is telling this tale and she’s a very flawed character, skipping back and forth between the past and the present the reader slowly discovers that Laura isn’t as she has portrayed herself.
This was well written but not a comfy read as it’s dealing with broken families and damaged people.
You can read Bawden’s obituary here
The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden was first published in 1975 and it’s one of the Puffin books that I bought fairly recently. It won the Guardian Award for children’s fiction. This book isn’t for the faint hearted as at the very beginning there’s a description of how Granny Greengrass had her finger accidentally cut off by the butcher. Then it’s mentioned that puppies used to have their tails ‘docked’ by having them bitten off by the groom at the Manor House.
The father of the Greengrass family is got rid of very quickly as after an incident at his work he decides that he should travel to America where his brother lives, in the hope of forging a new life for his family – eventually. The children and their mother end up having to leave their home in London and travelling to rural Norfolk to live with aunts until the time comes for them to leave for America. Life there is very different from London, they end up having a pet piglet, the runt of a litter which was offered for sale to their mother for a shilling.
In no time the piglet is house-trained, he’s clever and naughty and great fun, the children love their peppermint pig which is apparently what the runt of a litter is called. The piglet grows quickly, as the children were so fond of it I really thought that this was going to have a happy ending – but I was wrong!
The blurb on the back says: A charming and perceptive story by the author of Carrie’s War.
I imagine that it probably turned a fair few children into vegetarians – for a while anyway!
It has been a very busy week for us as we’ve been helping Gordon and Laura move into their new home, until now they’ve had to rent, like so many people nowadays but it has been worth waiting for and not only do they have a lovely house, they have a beautiful view of rolling green hills from their front path. I’ll get a photo of it soon, I was too busy humphing stuff to stop and click. The next time they move (not for a long time I hope) they will definitely be employing a removal company, we’re getting too old for it all!
Apparently everyone where Laura teaches was saying to her – are you flitting tomorrow? – and she had never heard the word before as although she has lived in Scotland for years she is from what she calls the grim North, meaning the Manchester area – which is definitely the south to us.
Anyway it’s great to see them settled at last. I have been reading although you wouldn’t think it because I’m way behind in my Goodreads Challenge updating. I hope to get back to normality, or what passes for normal here anyway – soon.
One book which I finished recently is Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden. It’s a Puffin Modern Classic and when I saw it in a charity bookshop in Edinburgh I thought it was about time I got around to taking a squint at it. Some parts of it seemed quite familiar though and I think I’ve probably heard snatches of it on the radio over the years. The BBC has also adapted it for TV in the past and you can watch it on You Tube.
The book is an enjoyable read, you probably already know that it’s about a young brother and sister from London being evacuated to Wales to avoid the Nazi bombs. I can only wonder what I would have done as a mother in that position, somehow I just can’t imagine packing my children onto a train and waving them off to an uncertain future with strangers. But then – there were all those bombs to contend with …