This is memoir in the guise of fiction, and Melvyn Bragg unveils his mother's and grandmother's lives in a way that will live long in the memory. The small Cumbrian town of the writer's youth is vividly evoked, as are the beauty of the scenery and the rich and varied history of that northwestern English county. What stands out most, though, is the loving and respectful way the two brave women at the heart of Bragg's story are brought to life.
Beautifully conveys how the past is a continuum that constantly feeds our consciousness of the present, altering its current and direction. It is starkly truthful about the perils of ageing. But it is also a convincing testimony to familial love, and its power to prompt the imagination in the service of a more generous understanding . . . It is a gem.
A complex and absorbing meditation on time and memory, made all the more poignant by its refusal to succumb to the temptation of wearing its heart on its sleeve.
The novel's multiple narratives are skilfully teased out from John's attempts to prolong meaningful life for his mother by stimulating her failing memory . . . For each generation, Bragg suggests, a key component of the quest is coming to terms with the past - a feat that his quietly intense novel pulls off with joy, sorrow and precision.
In a contemporary literary landscape of middlebrow experimentalism and over-hyped, over-long soap operas, a Bragg novel will usually remind you of fiction's traditional virtues: plot, psychology, carefully observed descriptions of landscape and people, a thoughtfulness about the passage of time and the damage done by history. The book feels deeply personal; but it moves us, as the best fiction does, because of its universality. It is a rich book and a thoughtful one . . . A remarkable performance.
Bragg's detailed evocation of the Wigton of his youth, the people that lived there, the beauty of the Cumbrian scenery, the lively sense of the region's long and varied history, is delightful. It's a novel that deserves to be read slowly, the details cherished.
Bragg's high-profile TV presence has tended to distract from his literary achievements, but this understated tale of three Cumbrian generations is one of his most heartfelt works.
A beautiful book, elegant, restrained and full of nuanced meditations on the nature of identity
A little masterpiece. With infinite skill and tenderness he has homed in upon a crucial, contemporary dilemma - the problem of ageing parents with dementia - and has produced a life-affirming work packed with wisdom, insight and profound observations about the human condition.
I loved it. It's a great achievement to have brought these women so tenderly, compassionately, warmly and respectfully to life
A beautiful, tender novel that evokes the spirit of Thomas Hardy while dealing with the very relevant issue of dementia. Highly recommended.