I picked up this book in a supermarket not realising that it was a reprint of a book first published in the 70s. It explores the dilemma of a working woman – Angela Bradbury – with children whose mother lives in elderly discomfort some distance away. The novel looks at the differences between the way the woman was raised to respect her own mother and do her duty by her and the way she raises her own daughter Sadie of whom she says she expects nothing in return. Although written in the 70s it strikes a chord with a modern audience.
Angela would, she thinks, cheerfully avoid all contact with her elderly parents. They are referred to as Mother and Father throughout the novel. Father is constantly angry at perceived slights and Mother is a master of manipulation. For both of them no matter how much is done or offered, it is never quite enough. Angela is a “disappointment” because she has moved away with her family and they cannot be involved in the children’s lives as much as they claim they would like to be. However whenever the family does come together both the grandparents nitpick and find fault with Angela and the way she raises her children. Angela herself is exhausted being a part time teacher and a full time parent and although her husband is supportive, because his own parents are dead he doesn’t quite get why Angela feels she has to fill every school holiday in her parents’ company when it makes everyone so miserable.
It doesn’t help when Angela’s sister who is childless throws in her own opinions at the drop of a hat and Mother’s sister feels the need to unburden an awful family secret that does nobody any good.
Sadie who has much more freedom than Angela ever had herself is characterised as a completely selfish but independent teenager and it all comes to a boil when Angela finds herself pregnant again at the same time as Mother’s health deteriorates even further.
It’s a worthwhile but frustrating read and although it is around 30 years old, continues to be an issue for working mothers who are pulled towards tending to the needs of their parents and their own children while neglecting their own lives which are disappearing fast.