This is one of those deceptive little books that looks like a quick ‘read it and forget it’, but is really much more. At little over a hundred pages, it is indeed a quick read – easily done in one sitting – but the pictures of family life it paints will, justifiably, stay in your memory and affections for some time.
The title is a fairly straightforward description of the contents. Law’s mother in law, Annie, shared her family home for seventeen years and ‘was picture-book perfect’. As she was deaf, Law would write her notes with reminders, requests and titbits of gossip every evening before going to bed. In response to her husband’s comment that she could have written and illustrated a book in the time she spent on these notes, she did so, gathering together a series of missives – some long, some short, some sad and some funny.
The one sided nature of the story – we never hear anything of Annie’s replies – means that we fill in the gaps ourselves. The topics range from the mundane – the availability of pearl barley or dusters – to the profound – the death of a family pet. All, however, are tinged with humour, mainly from the chaos of family life and the cast of unseen characters whose many deeds and misdeeds fill the pages.
What raises this above the ordinary, however, is the sense of a bygone age. Annie belonged to a past that is gone, having been in service and maintained many of the disciplines and routines she learnt as a girl. The depth of feeling in Law’s relationship with her is palpable, and as Annie becomes increasingly ill the reader cannot help but feel the sense of imminent loss.
Often funny, never sentimental but truly touching – a wonderful read.
first love, about war and about being young. If you’re buying it for that teenager, you could do worse than read it yourself before you hand it over. You won’t regret it.