REVIEWED BY DEBS CARR
Phillipa Smith has had an unusual and sometimes tragic childhood and the book begins with her having just given birth to her daughter. She's in her forties, her husband loves Someone Else and she has no home. She want to tell her daughter everything about her life, believing that there shouldn't be any secrets, but isn't sure where to start.
She decides to start at the beginning with Helena (her mother) hurriedly leaving the private hospital where she's just given birth. Helena is very attractive and also has no husband, and in 1965 that can make life rather difficult. She bundles Phillipa up in her Harrods bag and leaves London for a new start in Torquay.
The book is written in the first person and from Phillipa's point of view. She's an overfed baby, who grows into a tubby friendless infant until she meets Lucas, who soon becomes her best friend. Together they discover the wonders of life in Torquay and the mysteries of the cemetary next door. As the years pass life is cruel to Phillipa, not only does her friend die, but Helena abandons her, leaving her to live above the sweetshop with its owner, Bob.
It's hard to review this book without giving too much away. I don't want to make it sound miserable, because it's also very funny. It's clever too and reminded me of so many things I used to play when I was small.
Sophie Duffy depicts the decades from the sixties to the present day so well, bringing them to life by including incidents we either remember, or will have heard our parents discussing. We read about Phillipa watching Blue Peter (the ones with Valerie Singleton) with Lucas and making a drink with Soda Stream at her friend Toni's house. She watches The Generation Game with Bob's mum, Wink and we read about their reactions to Elvis dying, the Sex Pistols and the start of punk. Throughout her teens there's Terry, her friend's older brother and Phillipa's crush from when she was sixteen and he secretly passed her a note on her birthday.
Even though Phillipa's life is filled with traumatic events, she never whines or is irritating and there are a few shockers along the way, especially towards the end. The first forty years of Phillipa's life is unusual, but fascinating and never dull and the book is very much the same. It's well worth reading not only for the story, but to discover, or be reminded about so much that has happened and makes up the last forty or so years.