Saturday, 4 June 2016

My Real Children ( Book review)

‘My Real Children’ by Jo Walton
If I had looked fully at the description of this book as being Sc-fi Fantasy I wouldn’t have picked it up at the library. I just looked at the author bit and read she was from Wales, but now living in Canada born 1964, the same year as my daughter, who is also called Jo, although I always call her Joanne and she too was born in Wales. I have silly reasons why I chose certain books. But omgosh I really liked this book. Even before the story started to unfold, I knew it was a book I would enjoy, because it was written well, no silly long facile descriptions of what people were wearing, which I hate and is often found in some books which I close unread after the first few pages.
It opens with the old Patricia very confused,  in a nursing home remembering her life but which life pathway was real? Patricia, Patty, Patsy, Pat or Tricia, Trish, all the same woman. But two different lives, all decided by an answer to a question, one answer ‘yes’, the other ‘never. That really is the crux of this story; how one decision, one answer, can shape a whole lifetime, and the lives of those who come next. How generations of one family can be formed because of what one single person decided to do. The two stories then run concurrently, a chapter at a time.

Who is Patricia? Is she Trish, or is she Pat? Was she married with a family, a supply teacher and homemaker, or was she a bohemian travel writer, fighting for her rights and determined to live her life as she wants to? Both of these women have a wonderfully intricate story to tell and Jo Walton has so cleverly created two hugely different lives. I loved both Pat, lesbian with partner Bee and Tricia down trodden wife of a sod of a husband. It is cleverly interweaved with the history of the fifties through to present time, but also fiction, which are absolutely fascinating. For example, we read of Pat struggling to get a mortgage in the 1950’s as a single woman; of her liberation from her husband, Mark and childbirth with the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1961 but also of ‘Prince Charles and Princess Camilla’ and of couples getting married on the moon.
In one narrative we are in a world where John F. Kennedy was killed by a bomb in 1963, and in the other, transported to a world where Kennedy chose not to run in 1964 after an escalated Cuban Missile Crisis led to the nuclear obliteration of Miami and Kiev. In one, by 1985, AIDS and leukaemia could be cured. In the other, Pat loses a son to AIDS and because of the fallout from the nuclear bombs people die of cancers. For me, this is a story that is unique and original and beautiful. It's intriguing and it's confusing, yet it is filled with emotion and passion and characters who are forward-thinking and beyond the norm, yet are realistically portrayed.
A book well worth reading, perhaps more than once, in case some little details are missed. I think Jo Walton must know Italy well as her descriptions are completely delicious and along with Pat and Bee, I absolutely revelled in the art, the architecture, the scenery and the food. I am so glad I chanced upon this book.  I found this a completely fascinating, rich and enthralling read. I think I might look at other books by Jo Walton.


butterfly said...

Looks like a good read.

Julie said...

Thanks for the recommendation, we have a lady at your book borrowers group who is called Tricia by friends and Pat by family, will have to tell her about this one.

Maggie said...

Thanks for the book recommendation, it sounds like something i would like so i'm going to have a look to see if i can get it to take on my holidays next week :-)

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

I love Sci-fi and fantasy and this doesn't sound like either but it does sound like a damn good book! I've made a note of the title and author.

Have you read Versions of Us? That has a similar storyline - depending on whether the main character falls off her bicycle or not takes her on three different journeys through life with many common threads. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to you.