by Rose Tremain
Six year-old Mary stood quietly in the snow, with her family, as they mourned the death of King George VI, and thought "I am not Mary. That is a mistake. I am not a girl. I am a boy."
This is an enchanting story of people in a small village in the south of England trying to make sense of their lives.
It is not a book of tragedy. There is sadness, but there is joy. There is death but there is life. There is hopelessness but there is also the urge to become.
In its depiction of the complex network of relationships, there is probably more real truth about the way people are, than in a thousand psychology texts.
Walter with his dream of becoming a singer and songwriter believing that his dreams can never be fulfilled. Jimmy also nearly becoming trapped in a life not of his choosing. Both breaking out in their own special ways. Edward Harker, with his hat held discreetly in front of his trousers, believing that his feelings, at 61, for Irene are improper. And Irene never realising that a man could find her attractive as a woman.
Sonny, withdrawn inside himself occupied only with the farm that provided the family living. Estelle retreating into fantasy to escape a life of emptiness.
But, most of all, Mary who is really Martin, displaced in the family's cognisance by the arrival of the younger brother, despising him for his scrawny weakness, going through school to adulthood, meanwhile finding her true love and losing it, but growing triumphantly in her, then his, own individual way.
Washington Square Press; (1995)
ISBN: 0 671 88609 6
(Was Sceptre Books 1993 paperback, ISBN 0 340 56155 6
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