The fragility of this family's existence is evident early on, and throughout this wonderful debut novel, which arrested my attention from the very first words, as little Janie Ryan first comes into the world. She joins the family of 'Ryan Women, with filthy tempers, filthy mouths and big bruised muscles for hearts.'
Janie recounts her very personal story to us throughout the whole novel, and this is certainly a warts and all account. She endures a very unsettled childhood, moving often from flats to B&Bs to tower blocks, and never staying in any one town very long, and her and her ma are always poor, scraping to make ends meet. Men come into her mother's and therefore Janie's life too, and leave more than one kind of scar behind when they disappear again.
I was absorbed in this story; I was so hopeful for Janie when things started to go a bit better, then so worried for her when they took a turn for the worst again. Kerry Hudson has painted a convincing picture of Janie's life, one that I believed, and I was keen to turn the pages and discover her fate. I don't think a life like Janie's is one that is often depicted in fiction, or certainly not in the fiction I have generally come across. I think it is an important novel in this regard. It gives a voice to someone who is on the fringes of society, living a harsh brutal existence, but nevertheless growing and developing and somehow getting through each day and even sensing that there could be a better future out there - and that's a wonderful thought.
This is a frank account of a difficult childhood and adolescence, at times very sad, yet it is written with such honesty and grace and it is certainly not without optimism, humour and even joy. Janie is looking back at where she has been, what she has lived through, and then she is looking to the future, as the very last words in the book indicate. She is a resilient girl, now a young woman, and she has a good head on her shoulders despite, and perhaps because of, what she has learned about life thus far. As her ma says, 'you're smart enough tae take the good bits and leave the rest, Janie.'
Thanks to the author and the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this novel to read and review.
You can read a special guest post from the author here, which appeared earlier in the year on my blog.
You can follow the author on twitter @KerrysWindow and visit her website here.