A few weeks ago my head was buzzing, full of events, emotions, observations I hadn’t got round to processing. I thought that writing about them would help. It turned out that simply writing them helped. Once they were on coloured post-its and I’d rambled on for a page or so, I was done. I’m an uncomplicated soul, it seems.
I had wondered if I might explore writing about grief, or death, or mothers. Happily for all of us, I don’t need to. Apart from the fact that I wouldn’t be fit for it, I don’t actually need to. Roddy Doyle has done it for me.
Yes, that Roddy Doyle. Booker prizewinner, prolific writer of children’s and adult fiction, master of dialogue. He’s written the books I’d wanted to write. Phew. Saved by an expert.
Her Mother’s Face (2008) is about Siobhán. Her mum died when Siobhán was three, and now she can’t remember her face. The story is full of warmth and love, and Siobhán’s relationships with her dad, and with her own daughter, Ellen.
These themes are developed in A Greyhound of a Girl (2011). Four generations of women enjoy spending time together. There’s Tansey (who happens to be a ghost), her now elderly, dying, daughter Emer, grand-daughter Scarlett and great grand-daughter, Mary. Tansey has come to help Emer move on; she also died when her daughter was three and is still trying to help in any way a mum can. The book references changes in Irish society, speech patterns and family dynamics, but lightly, gently. Nothing is laboured. It took me a while to recognise, smiling, that Mary’s mum Scarlett had married a Mr O’Hara.
In both books, the women are lively, spirited characters: Ellen carries feathers to give to serious men; Tansey has a special way of delivering ice cream. The men are much loved, and vulnerable. Dommo, Killer and Uncle James the baby.
In an unexpected development, no tears were shed in the reading of these books. Love, death and family. Heartwarming stuff all round. Wonderful.