Berringden Brow by Jill Robinson
This is a witty, clever and honest fictional look at the life of a woman in Berringden Brow in the north of England. Originally published in 2001, this is a pre – internet book that revels in mixed messages of all sorts. This book is subtitled “Memoirs of a Single Parent with a Crush” on Ben, the librarian in the small local library. Jess is a woman with two sons, Alex, thirteen and living at home, and Tom who alternates University with his girlfriend’s house. This book is written in the style of brief chapters which tell of Jess’ life in a small town, covering her friends and relationships, her attempts to find paid work, and her helping others. Not that she is solely a doer of good works, but that she attempts to help those who find the odds are against them , as well as those who struggle with real life. The humour is never forced, but comes in the realistic dialogue with friends and family, and the exasperation with those that she is in contact with as she tries to cope with daily life. It is painfully realistic, as she tries to scrape together enough money to go the cinema, deals with her excitable neighbours and ponders the suitability of going on dates. I found this a fascinating and funny book, full of truthful insights into life, and was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The front of this book details some of the people that Jess encounters as she tries to find a happy relationship. Ben works in the library, where Jess is a frequent visitor for books, videos and records. They talk about films and much else, joke about local issues including vegetable placements, and agree about the perils of being “Overworked, underpaid, underappreciated”. Having gained a good degree despite extreme family problems, followed by an MA, Jess discovers that she is overqualified for many jobs, and doesn’t have the sometimes slightly bizarre experience demanded for others. She has had a failed serious romance with Robin, and she has spent much time in Africa, but realises all that he now wants from her is a spare room when he occasionally returns to the UK. Adverts for prospective partners produce a disappointing man who adds her to his shortlist owing to proximity, while a pen pal is less advantageous. Her dealings with her sons are often funny, especially as Alex proves to be quite the entrepreneur. There are touching details about her neighbour and friend Fred, and her inspiration to improve matters.
Jess is a lovely character, friendly, caring but realistic about many things and people. She gets herself into some interesting situations, partly because of other people’s behaviour. There are references to her difficult background, particularly of her mother. Despite the clever lightness of touch there are points of sadness, which are well handled. Fans of “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” or more recently “Bridget Jones” will find much to interest them in this unusual book, which is an entertaining and enjoyable read.
This review is the first I have posted since last Friday, which is the longest gap since mid March! I will be trying to post every weekday and the odd day over the weekend. It’s still a lot of books! Happily we have managed to pack up many a lot of daughter’s stuff so I can get to more of my fiction, and only authors C – G are really difficult to get to now! It’s already saved me from buying four books that I found on my shelves. Hurray!