The house fell down in part one, the rebuilding of the house and the writer began in the second part, and in book three many strands come together. Alice May is a painter, yet the trauma of the family house falling down and the associated disasters meant that she had a long break from the creative outlet that she loved. In this volume she is painting and creating pictures with a will, but the problem of Mortimer the mortgage is causing difficulties. Having had to take out a huge mortgage in order to pay back the extra costs of the rebuild, Alice and Beloved Husband are working to earn sufficient money. Worse still, they will have to try to sell the house which is now in perfect order in its beautiful setting in order to pay back the money used to set it right. The pressure of this together with missing the two older daughters Chaos and Logic is telling on the author, and in at least one of the time sections she is persuaded to make changes in her life. Belonging to the local Women’s Institute leads her into strange performances, and she is also thrown into the company of brilliant women who offer challenges. Once more I am pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review one of these lively books.
As in the first two books the writer’s style is witty, charming and keeps moving through the minor incidents of contemporary life, such as waiting in the Post Office queue in embarrassing company. It is genuinely funny in so many respects, as the sons, still referred to as the Barbarians, have mock fights and battles at all times. The writer’s inner voice leads her into all sorts of trouble, and reflects the advice of her loved ones to try to exploit her creative talents. She is put under pressure to do a talk to a group found by her mother, and it is her preparation and fear of this challenge that pushes her narrative. She tries to get into an exercise class but is foiled by timetable confusions, with funny repercussions. Skelly the skeleton is still very much in evidence, and it is in the attempt to hide him from potential house purchasers that Alice starts more local rumours. She is suddenly seized by the urge to write her story down, and is compelled to spend many hours sat at an ancient laptop creating a manuscript. When it is finished her daughters put pressure on her to combine her offer to the group as writer, artist and speaker, and this is the background to the present set of books.
I have enjoyed these books; Alice May has a personal and enjoyable writing style which has made for a well paced trilogy with a lot of humour. It is very revealing of contemporary family life in a realistic way, where the children are not saintly but equally not not disturbed and causing real trouble. The emergence of the author from her family is fascinating, showing a balance between the growth in independence of young people as they become adults, but also their familiar reliance on their parents and siblings for support. These three books are the story of a house, but really the story of a family which values each member and derives much humour, entertainment and support not only from a building, but also a family network that can withstand so much.