The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Brat is on her own; she cannot remember her parents, and no one cares for her. She sleeps in the village dung heap as it’s by far the warmest option, and not so very much worse smelling than the rest of the village. The village midwife takes her in as a skivvy, to sweep and damp and tamp the cottage floor, scatter fleabane about to keep, yes, fleas at bay, and run the occasional errand. Though the cottage floor is not near so warm and soft as the dung heap, being provided food, however inadequate, gives Brat the time and energy to notice the world around her, and wonder if she might dream of becoming more than a beggar brat.

As Brat begins to settle in, she takes note of the midwife’s practices, the herbs to bring on milk, stop or intensify contractions, the charms to ease a woman’s labor and the general techniques Jane Sharp uses. Daring even to give herself a name, Alyce, she begins to think she’s earned a place in the village; a comb and a bath, an intact dress and nearly enough to eat, and she’s on her way. Not only does she befriend a cat, but arranges a position for a little boy of six, at first only called Dung but later Edward for the king, at the local manor house. Gaining confidence from aiding the local cowherd’s boy to deliver his favorite cow of her twin calves, Alyce, as we now must call her, dares help a local woman give birth after the midwife leave to deliver a likelier baby. She succeeds here—the baby is named Alyce Little—but flees aghast when she subsequently takes it upon herself to deliver another woman, but fails to deliver a difficult pregnancy.

She takes refuge in a nearby tavern-inn, using the work habits she’s learned with the midwife to earn her keep and then some. Even the local absent-minded scholar, staying at the inn for a quiet place to study, notes her keen wit and begins “teaching the cat to read”; needless to say, Alyce eavesdrops and learns her own letters easily enough. After Alyce helps a guest at the inn, thought to have a stomach worm, deliver a baby, Jane Sharp tracks her down. While she does not force the girl to come back, she makes it quite clear through an indirect conversation with the absent-minded scholar that she does not consider Alyce to be the incompetent dung-beetle the girl herself thought she was, but rather a girl who foolishly gave up after her first setback—determination is the key. Alyce comes back; at first Jane seems to send her away, but Alyce returns, saying “It is I, your apprentice. I have come back. And if you do not let me in, I will try again and again. I can do what you tell me and take what you give me, and I know how to try and risk and fail and try again and not give up. I will not go away.”

Karen Cushman’s written several books about girls in Medieval England: Catherine, called Birdy, Matilda Bone, and others. The language and setting is such that squeamish parents might want to reserve Cushman’s books for older kids, and indeed they might be good for teenaged reluctant readers, or those who think that history is dull lists of names and dates as dry as the desert. If you’re a curious tween with parents who understand the value of challenging reading, however, don’t let that previous statement stop you; all Cushman’s books are rattling good fun, about strong-willed girls, or those who learn to value themselves and the merits of determination and education. If you’ve read all these books, and are looking for something to read next, try Jane Yolen’s historical novels, or E.L. Konigsberg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver…or indeed any of Konigsberg’s other books. They’re not all historical, but again interesting stories about girls who learn to be bold and sure of themselves.

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When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Irma Vitali sees no real future for herself in the minuscule mountain town where her father lives. Sheep and sewing, marriage or the convent, and ‘hungry years’ coming all too often…only marriage is not really an option, as there are only five eligible men in her village–two are already affianced, two are cognitively impaired brothers incapable of supporting themselves alone and the fifth is violent. Her brother has already gone to America, they think; he left the village one night, saying he was going to work his way to Cleveland on tramp steamers out of Naples. Realizing that her niece too has her heart set on America, Irma’s ‘zia’ hands over what gold the family had kept, her father gives Irma her dowry, and the girl sets off for America.

Steerage is cramped, pungent and generally about as unpleasant as might be expected. Irma makes her way to Cleveland, and begins to search for her brother, but no luck; a scout of sorts on the lookout for immigrants in need of work arranges work for her in a dressmaking sweatshop just as her money runs out. (This also is about as miserable as one might expect, though not so bad as the factories elsewhere.) With no English and little in the way of salable skills, her first few months in the United States are about what you’d expect: a maelstrom of incomprehensible language, customs and even fruit—Irma’s first encounter with a banana provides considerable amusement at the expense of the greenhorn.

After several months in Cleveland, Irma realizes that her brother is not there, and determines to leave for Chicago; though her first attempt is thwarted by a mugging, she makes it to the White City, and, through a fortuitous encounter with a society matron whose dress became badly ripped, Irma finds employment in a boutique dressmaker’s shop. Again, this proves fulfilling for a few months, but Irma is raped by a lowlife posing as a police officer. The aftermath, physical and psychological, is as one might expect: she is not only victim to what we would now call PTSD but finds herself pregnant—what to do, if one cannot have the child much less keep it, is difficult even today, but in the 1880s, near-disaster. Irma has the good fortune to find a skilled abortionist, and even better fortune to realize that her calling lies in helping the poor through providing medical care. She apprentices herself to the doctor who helped her, and after the doctor’s death, goes out to San Francisco where there is a nursing school. Here she finds not only a calling, but friendship and a life partner.

I know this sounds as if I’m damning this with faint praise, but When We Were Strangers better than I thought I would, based on the first few pages. Overall, it strikes me as a modern woman’s tale of what she thinks it might have been like for an immigrant from Italy; that said, it’s an engaging tale, and a sympathetic one. I’m not sure how accurate it might be in terms of the cross-cultural ecumenical support between women, though my romantic heart hopes that they would have been; does anyone know?

I’m always wary/mocking of books which include book discussion questions at the end; that’s always struck me as presumptuous—how can the author and the publisher possibly presume to know how readers will use the book? In this case, the accompanying explanation of how the author came to write the novel was an interesting expansion of the book itself, though not surprising. On the plus side, though it has little to do with this book, if the author’s essay gets any of the readers to go quiz their older relatives about genealogy, the novel will have done it’s work, as far as I’m concerned. Stories from your tantes and nonis, bubbes and opas, can be an invaluable aid to research. Trust me on this.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

(Warning: spoilers below.)

Harold Fry, recently retired, has been leading a life of thoroughly English1 humdrum unruffled calm; even as the book begins, however, there are signs of cracks in the facade. He and his wife Maureen do not speak, other than the few necessary phrases, such as “Pass the marmalade, please.” Indeed, she seems irritated by everything he does, sniping at seemingly minor mistakes, such as picking up the raspberry jam when he’d asked for the marmalade.

His life changes one morning when he receives a letter from Queenie, an old work acquaintance from twenty years ago, informing him that she’s in hospice, dying of cancer. She wants nothing of him, but just wanted to say goodbye and thank him for all he did for her. Harold pens a quick reply, and sets out to post it…

…only he just keeps walking after mailing the letter, having added a note to the effect of “Wait for me; I will come save you.” He does end up walking the six hundred miles from his home in Kingsbridge to Berwick-on-Tweed, with little more than the clothes he was wearing when he set out that morning. The long walk takes the physical toll one might expect of a sixty-five year old man with shoes inappropriate for more than a short stroll, and no camping gear or food, but along the way, complete strangers offer both physical and emotional support: tea and biscuits and a rest in a garden, water, bandages for his feet, their own tales of dealing with cancer.

Things take a turn for the popularized glurge when he comes to the attention of the national media, and hangers-on attach themselves to him; in the end, these people walking along with him split off and head for Berwick-on-Tweed without him, but Harold continues. As Maureen waits at home, she shifts from anger to frustration to worry, from indifference back to the passion they had at the beginning of their marriage, and in the end, comes to meet him in Berwick-on-Tweed to visit Queenie. As Harold walks, he reminisces about Queenie, his son David, and his wife. Queenie was a plain woman but a gifted accountant; Harold defends her against the barbs from the other men at the brewery which employs them, and he’s later assigned to drive her to the various pubs which purchase from the brewery, to check their books.

Joyce drops hints through the book that there’s a dark secret in the past; why else would Harold feel compelled to walk six hundred miles when he could drive or take public transit? It’s not until nearly the end of the book that readers find out what this is: David committed suicide, and it was Harold who found his son hanging in the garden shed. He went off the rails and began drinking heavily; one day in an alcoholic haze, he not only dismantled the garden shed but broke into his boss’s office to smash all the glass figurines of which said boss was inordinately proud. Queenie knew Harold had done it, but rather than say as much, she took the rap for him and was fired on the spot. The two did not communicate again until that last letter that precipitated Harold’s pilgrimage…and it is as close to a penitential pilgrimage as a modern non-religious person is likely to make these days. But Harold arrives too late to do more than hold Queenie’s hand for a few moments; the cancer surgeries have left her a physical wreck, only for the last tumor to distort her face into a gargoyle-like parody, and she is incapable of more than moaning wordlessly.

I would disagree with the reviewers who said this is an unsentimental book; it’s so permeated with sentiment that it oozed as I read it, but I am grateful for the fact that Joyce did NOT succumb to the ultimate in feel-good tropes and have Queenie survive. There’s nothing Harold could have done to save her, and indeed he comes too late to even tell Queenie what her act twenty years ago meant to him. Faith may be a comforting thing to have, but there’s a limit to what it can do. Harold and Maureen may have reconstructed the love they had at the beginning of their marriage, but Queenie and David are still gone.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is worth reading, to be sure. If you’re susceptible to emotional books, make sure you’ve got plenty of tissues. I fear I may be another of the heartless readers who were not as touched by this as others feel we ought to have been. Worth reading, definitely. Brilliant? Let me get back to you when Joyce has produced other books of similar caliber. I’ve read too many first novels from authors who never produced anything so good again to be wholeheartedly supportive of this. My apologies.

1not all British are like this, nor are all other nations condemned to riot and excitement; it’s just that Fry is doing it in a manner unique to the English.

Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George

At that, [Jesus’s mother] let out a laugh. “Wrong test!” she said, shaking her head. “The rabbis in Jerusalem know better.” She turned to her guests. “Last year, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem to probe the scribes and rabbis at the Temple about fine points of scripture. So I can appreciate how your parents feel, Mary, to have a child suddenly go of on his own. But no one wins a scripture contest with Jesus.”

Well, I suppose no one would, now could they? Never mind the fact that at the time to which Mary is referring, Jesus hadn’t yet had his bar mitzvah.

First the disclaimers. I hope my more secular readers and those from a non-Christian background will forgive me for the phrasing in this review; please keep in mind that, in this case, I’m reviewing the work of fiction by Margaret George, not the Bible itself. This does not constitute an endorsement of the religion, but simply a review of a book I found diverting. Also (with another round of apologies), I haven’t read any of the many other books about Mary Magdalene, and this review is not intended to be a survey of the literature. I would only hope that this novel might pique someone’s interest in reading more about her. Oh, and if you’re coming to this novel after having read The DaVinci Code, keep going. The two are completely different.

Mary Magdalene is one of the more prominent women in the New Testament, but none of the more widely accepted books of the Bible say much about her. Was she a prostitute? Mentally ill? Apostle to the apostles? The fact that she was the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection should indicate something…but what1?

Mary, Called Magdalene is (surprise, surprise) primarily about Mary Magdalene, though necessarily includes a great deal about Jesus. The book begins with her childhood, in a particularly observant Jewish family, holding themselves apart from less strict families at home and while traveling. The first portion of the book, when Mary was a child, sets the stage for her later life: on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she not only befriends a girl from a more lenient family but in an escapade with Keziah, runs off to meet others en route to Jerusalem. It is here that Mary first meets Jesus, he a tween but even then a particularly eloquent and charismatic boy, as evidenced by his convincing the stern Nathan, Mary’s father, to permit her to stay overnight with a strange family.

As so many children do, she grew into an adult, married, and had a child…but unfortunately, she became plagued with demons2, and it is here that Jesus appears, again. The wedge was driven in with Mary’s filching an image of one of the gods of previous religions, rejected utterly by Jews of the time; in this case, it was a little ivory statuette of a goddess, which served as a channel directly between the deity herself and Mary. Over the years, other similar spirits came to Mary, to the point that she was no longer able to function as a wife, a mother, and a member of society. As this was regarded as a religious issue, she first went to a rabbi gifted in driving out such creatures for treatment; when he proved unsuccessful, Mary retreated out to a desert cave to wrestle alone with her possessors. Stumbling out of the isolation, crazed with her inner demons (and probably also things like dehydration, sunstroke, and hunger), she meets Jesus, who drives out the demons himself…and it’s here that Margaret George veers from conjecture about what the life of a woman at the time might have been back into what little we know of Mary from the New Testament.

Overall, I must confess I felt something lacking in this novel. It could just be that there is comparatively little written about Mary Magdalene, relative to some of the other women about whom George has written novels. Certainly, there’s comparatively little written about her, relative to the men mentioned in the Bible, contemporaneous with the protagonist here. But. But. And a very important But. This is a work (indirectly) about an important religious figure; I’d bet that novels about Mohammed, no matter how well written, no matter the doctrine followed in the text, would similarly redact off readers who belonged to Islam. Perhaps that’s the important thing to take away: I too found the first half or thereabouts of the book, when Mary Magdalene was a child and youth, then raising a family and battling her own demons, more interesting. After she became a follower of Jesus, what interest I had in the book dropped off, perhaps because it then became inevitably about him as much as her.

I do appreciate the little touches that humanize this figure, little less mythological than Helen of Troy. Her anguish at being ripped from her daughter. Her despair at being called a ‘loose woman’ and ‘harlot’ after spending forty days and forty nights alone unchaperoned in the desert with several of the men who similarly became followers of Jesus. Not so sure about some of the details surrounding Jesus himself–here, both Jesus and his mother doubted his mission/nature until the former’s final arrival in Jerusalem–but then this book isn’t, strictly speaking, about Jesus. Thankfully. Or it would be about four times the length, and that’s impracticable to bind.

Overall, though, I’d call it an interesting take on a footnote woman from the Bible, comparatively neutral…although that withstanding, I’m sure that someone out there’s redacted off about it from a doctrinal (however peripheral) standpoint. Writing comparatively non-denominational fiction about pretty much any religious fiction is going to cause people to react that way. It’s not purely about Mary Magdalene–I would have appreciated more of the detail that went into George’s first two books–but, perhaps necessarily, the second half is concerned as much with Jesus as with Mary.

As for what to read next….try Margaret George’s other books. There are several, and they’re all bricks; I think George is just shy of Gabaldon’s total page count by now. Her later books are similarly about historical women. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent may be another possibility; it’s not about Mary Magdalene, but rather a little-known daughter of Jacob.

Smithsonian article

1Yes, yes, I know. Scholars of the ‘official’ New Testament and the later works have talked this to death.
2Bear with the author here; she’s going by what the New Testament called it, not what actually happened or what modern medicine would have called it.

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Told as a flashback, readers can see where the denouement of this book will take place, but not as yet why the narrator is where she is: trying to sneak onto the ferry from England (or rather Wales) to Ireland.

As the flashback begins, Holly Hogan, fourteen, is living in Templeton House, awaiting foster care placement. She’s reasonably happy where she is–she’s got two mates with whom she stravages around London, and she adores her “key”1 worker, Miko. However, Miko is looking for work elsewhere and Holly is going to go to Fiona and Ray Aldredge in Tooting Bec.

Holly is unable to bear living with this pair of too too earnest wholesome Londoners, whom she believes to be only replacing the child they cannot have with a second-best ready-made child who needs a home. She finds an ash-blonde wig hidden away in the bottom of a dresser drawer in her new home, and invents an alter-ego for herself, Solace, a tough and independent seventeen-year-old girl. She steals what cash she can–twenty-four pounds sounds a lot to a fourteen-year-old though an adult can see how pitifully small the amount is–and heads for Ireland.

Holly dreams of running away to join her mother in Ireland, where Bridget has gone to escape her partner…or has she? We learn tidbits about Holly’s life with her mother in “the sky house” alternating with descriptions of her flight from London across to the ferry landing.

Twenty-four pounds doesn’t go nearly as far as Holly expects it to, never mind the problems that a fourteen-year old faces even if others believe her to be seventeen. Her flight involves not only a bus trip to Oxford, where she is mistaken for a student, but hitchhiking–her rides include a vegan truck driver with a load of cheese who, when he finds out that it’s her birthday, buys her a strawberry spongecake with pretend candles–and sneaking aboard the night train to the ferry landing, hiding in the bathroom when it seems likely that someone will come around to collect tickets. She arrives at the ferry landing, having left her “lizard” bag aboard the train, just as Jane Eyre leaves her trunk aboard the train fleeing from Mr. Rochester2, and does manage to secrete herself in the back of what would be called an SUV in the States, and is taken aboard the ferry…only to get locked in as the owners leave their car.

It is here that she dredges up the last missing suppressed piece of her memories of childhood: her mother did not leave Holly in order to flee for Ireland escaping the abusive man in her life, she abandoned Holly in order to go after the man who was her drug supplier and her pimp, pausing only to call Social Services anonymously to inform them that Holly was alone in the apartments. It is at this point on the ferry that she turns herself in to the crew of the ferry, before she sets foot on Irish soil, and is taken back to the safety of a genuinely loving family, the Aldreges.

Oh, and the wig? It’s the one that Fiona Aldredge wore while she was herself suffering through the treatment for the cancer which rendered her unable to have children.

In the beginning, Holly comes across as a terribly self-centered girl, oblivious of the emotional needs of others. Bear with her. As we learn more about her background, readers may…not necessarily warm up to her but at least view her with more compassion. In some ways, this struck me as a more objective depiction of a girl who’d emerged from a disastrous situation no more intact than Shell in A Swift Pure Cry. (and like other reviewers, I appreciate that while there were a couple of creeps and creepy people, on the whole the people whom Holly encountered were good: they did what they did because they wanted to, expecting nothing in return.)

Published after Dowd’s death, I’m assuming that this was at least in part edited by another author though perhaps to a lesser extent than Ness’s work on A Monster Calls. Certainly the language here strikes me as being somewhat different from A Swift Pure Cry and Bog Child, though that may be as much because it’s being told from the perspective of a child who’s grown up in London rather than one from Ireland, as it is because it’s been edited (finished) by a different author. This may be a harder book to read than A Swift Pure Cry as there’s much less of a fairy tale aspect to Holly’s memories of her life with her mother than Shell’s meanderings through rural Ireland.

The Guardian
Common Sense Media
Crossover Review
TeenReads

1variant on social worker who lives-in at the home where Holly lived

The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell

As with all good fairy tales, The Animal Family starts with that classic phrase “Once upon a time…”

Once upon a time there was a hunter who lived alone in a cabin between the forest and the sea. It was a beautiful cabin and a beautiful meadow, and the sea and the stars and the forest surrounding his home were no less so, but there was no one with whom the hunter might share this beauty. One day, his attention was caught by someone singing out at sea, by the rocks that lay just outside his cove. The voice was like a woman’s but it sang in no human language, and when he dared approach the first time, the singer dove into the water and swam away like a seal. The hunter, having learned patience while tracking prey, took his time becoming acquainted with the singer, a mermaid with a sense of adventure and taste for the different like no other of her kind. Before too long, she moved into the cabin with the hunter, though she never learned to like sweets or cooked food, or sleeping under the blankets.

They were happy together, despite their differences but what is a family without children? First the hunter brought home a bear cub, who proved loving but, well, messily bearish. Then he brought home a lynx kitten, who proved just as loving but neatly catlike. Both animals required adjustments on the part of the hunter and of the mermaid. The bear’s first hibernation came as a shock to the mermaid who believed it to have died. The lynx’s proudest “kill” of the hunter’s mother’s lace handkerchief, one of his only mementos of his parents, was bittersweet for the hunter. After a time the hunter began having a strange dream, in which he saw his long-dead father, with himself as his father’s shadow, and his also deceased mother with the mermaid as her shadow, but he, a small child in the dream, lacked a shadow. The mermaid suggested that the hunter wanted a child, but where to get one? Needless to say, the hunter and the mermaid could not have a child themselves.

One day, the lynx and the bear brought home a child of their own: a real human boy, who had been carried ashore in the boat that still held his own dead mother. The story ends, with the family now complete; not a family that most of us would have, but a family nonetheless.

Jarrell is better known as a poet than a prose writer, though it shows in this book clearly; I’ve always thought it read like poetry. It’s not a deliberately tear-jerking story, though I suspect that people who are susceptible to such things will need to have tissues nearby. Bittersweet, perhaps? Certainly the descriptions of the mermaid’s struggles to learn about the land, and to explain her love of the land to her family in the sea, are often amusing, as are the hunter’s struggles with learning how to say useful phrases in Dolphin and Seal, in case he is swept too far out to sea to swim back to shore. A ordinary household, if you discount the fact that only two of the five are truly human, going about its business and accommodating the differences of the members. As the boy thinks of the hunter and the mermaid:

The two of them were different from him, different from each other, but then aren’t a boy’s father and mother always different from each other, different from him? The difference between the hunter and the mermaid were no greater, to the boy, than the difference between his father’s short hair and trousers, his mother’s long hair and skirts, is to any child.

Maurice Sendak’ illustrations add to this dreamlike air; these are not the brightly colored, cartoonish drawings which he did for Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, but the black-and-white shadowy illustrations used in Higglety-pigglety-Pop and The Juniper Tree.

Deafening by Frances Itani

Despite the title, Deafening is as much about relationships and about the soldiers’ experience in Europe in World War I as it is about deafness, the deaf world in the early twentieth century and education of the deaf.

The protagonist, Grania, is the daughter of Irish immigrants to Ontario; the family is running a hotel and making a living at it when Grania loses her hearing as a result of a bout with scarlet fever. Technically, this has no real effect on the hotel business, though it sends ripples through the family as a whole. Grania’s grandmother, Mamo, and her sister, Tress, step into the breach; they teach Grania what they can of speech and lip reading in addition to all the other things she will need to know–reading, ciphering, hotel-keeping. In time, however, it becomes increasingly obvious that they cannot teach her everything but she is unable to manage an education in the local schools, absent any additional assistance with the issues she specifically faces.

Reluctantly, the family sends her to the School for the Deaf in Belleville, Ontario1. All students must stay at the school through the school year, not returning home even for Christmas, as the school officials and curriculum designers believe that leaving the school and its immersion in lipreading and sign language, will interfere with the students’ ability to learn the skills necessary to manage in the hearing world once they graduate. Grania settles in; the school’s program combines sign language, lipreading and speech therapy with vocational training–typesetting1 for the boys and sewing for the girls–and what modern readers might consider “grade school education”: reading, writing and ciphering.

Grania meets and falls in love with a hearing boy, Jim, and he her. After she leaves school, they marry and have a few months of a beautiful relationship, the likes of which ordinary people can only dream. She lives in a world that is silent but not the less rich for her inability to hear, not begrudging Jim his love of music and even trying to understand what he loves so much.

However, what struck me as the most emotionally complex portion of the story has little to do with deaf members of a hearing society, although Grania remains central to the plot. No, as readers with a passing knowledge of history will realize, the second half of the book deals with World War I after Canada enters the war, largely Jim’s experience as a stretcher bearer on the front, and his reactions to war, shelling, and whether or not he hates the Germans, with a side sub-plot of (no surprises here, either) the Spanish Influenza epidemic back home in Canada. Here, Itani’s writing glows with the sort of philosophy that nearly a century of separation can bring; her descriptions of what Jim goes through is, if I may use the term for what went on in World War I, beautiful. (Just don’t think too hard about what it might have been like to go through that yourself.)

Unfortunately, I don’t like the novel as well as I feel I ought. I found it workmanlike but not brilliant for a couple of reasons. It’s got an issue that’s bothered me in some other debut novels: it seems to me that the author tries to cram too much into one volume. Itani covers the experience of Irish immigrants to Canada, running a hotel in small-town Ontario, a deaf girl in 1905, education of the deaf in the early twentieth century, growing up in that period (and falling in love and marrying), soldiers in World War I and the families on the home front; I’m sure there are one or two others I’ve missed. I’m not saying writers ought not to combine two or more sub-plots. Just that in the hands of a rookie author, all those themes in one novel leave me a bit breathless and wanting to know more about the various subjects. It also struck me that Itani fell into the “show, don’t tell” trap, especially in regards the budding relationship between Jim and Grania. How did they come to realize their love for each other? How did they demonstrate their abiding relationship? How did their families feel about the inevitable issues of a deaf and hearing spouses? As it is, Grania never really set up a household and life of her own; when Jim and Kenan went off to war, Tress and Grania moved back into their childhood bedroom for the duration, even down to the childhood twin beds.

1The school is still extant, though it goes by a different name now: Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf
2at the time, this was a respectable job, but a noisy one, and the school assumed that the deaf would not be so bothered by the pounding of the presses as hearing employees