The Taxi Driver's Daughter
by Julia Darling
'What's wrong with being a taxi driver?' asks Degna,in the TAXI DRIVER'S DAUGHTER.
Well, exactly. Admit it, there may be sheer pleasure in being cocooned and sound-proofed in the back of Mac's taxi, breathing in his air-freshener and Extra Strong mints, and noticing, for the first time, city churches, pubs, undertakers and pavements piled high with basket ware from Botswana.
Mac's wife, Louise, is jailed for three months for assaulting a policeman with the stiletto heel of a
shoe she has shoplifted from Fenwicks. Mac's teenage daughters, Stella and Caris ('I might pierce my clitoris too'), are adrift without her. Mac's
sherry-and-nicotine-pickled mother-in-law moves herself into the box room 'to help'. A family visit to Louise in jail? Don't ask.
While Stella, with 'A's in all her subjects, begins to clean obsessively, Caris imagines that a strange feral boy
(with a gold credit card) is a prince who will take her away from it all. Caris is forthright, brave, unaffected and her bedroom and clothes are a mess: she has the energy and honesty
to dominate the story. Stella tries hard to stop everything disintegrating. Stella and Caris would
gladden and frighten the heart of any father.
Julia Darling is as gifted a storyteller as anyone around in this third millenium. She is subtle, fascinating and modern without the gimmick of
eccentric punctuation. She makes a very fine art of
being easy to read, while giving one pause to understand the deeper meanings in her book. There is,
of course, the folly and the bitter cruelty in sending the mother of a family to jail for shoplifting. But I
think THE TAXI DRIVER'S DAUGHTER is about today, our predicament, and our isolation brought on to some extent by television, better housing, and the
difficulty of finding time to stand back and see the whole picture.
THE TAXI DRIVER'S DAUGHTER's unpredictable ending left me wondering uneasily what would happen next, and very anxious to know.
While Darling’s prose style is spare, her images are very eloquent. Towards the end of the story, the bronze of a large banana (paid for, no doubt, with a Lottery grant) is transported inch by inch through Newcastle's rush hour, escorted by policemen on motorbikes. 'More bloody art!' shouts Steady Eddy, seething in the tail-back. Meanwhile, in the park, Maurice and Ned are told to take ladders and remove the collection of shoes hanging in the tree. Maurice grumbles to Ned. 'They wouldn't take it down if someone from fucking London had done it', he says waspishly. Ned doesn't
answer. He likes his job...
Oh, I do love you, Julia Darling.