by Jeremy Page
This book provoked one of the longest discussions that we have had in the book club. There was a feeling that in some respects Norfolk people were made to seem strange and stupid. On further discussion we decided that in fact it could be considered that Norfolk people are individual, as all people are, and in particular the strength of Norfolk women was portrayed.
To live out in the bleak marshes would not be easy for anyone, yet Goose manages to do it and lives alone for most of her life. We did feel sad for her that she had to go into the home towards the end of her life, with the loss of her freedom and space.
The narrative style was felt to be quite different from that usually found and at times it was difficult to follow. There seemed to be a contradiction – the narrator, Pip, was telling what had happened in the past. But it was also suggested that neither his grandmother, Goose, or his mother, Lil, were very forthcoming and open. So we were left wondering how he had learnt so much about the past.
In fact there were many questions that went unanswered. What really did happen to Hans? Why did the locals never connect the parachutist with the sudden appearance of a man with a strange accent? Why did Lil' go to Lincolnshire? Why did she give up her daughter? Was Pip born an elective mute? Was this really life in this century in Norfolk?
The Norfolk women amongst our group felt that Goose's cottage was reminiscent of their grandparents', which had a broom handle holding up the ceiling. We wondered whether the author had sat in a pub listening to the locals and then writing a story of 'Norfolk Tales' amalgamating them so that they all happened to one family.
Some of these stories were certainly entertaining and amusing.
The intricacies of the family were complex and the characters were well-drawn but not always physically described, we had our greatest picture of them by their actions.
The description of the Norfolk landscape was enjoyed by some and considered too much by others. Although it was certainly agreed that the desolation of the landscape was keenly felt, and there was thought to be a parallel with Joanne Harris and her novel, 'Coastliners'. Norfolk has such large skies and this was used to great effect with the description of Goose telling forthcoming events by looking at the clouds, how many of us have spent time looking up at the sky and seen shapes in the clouds?
A number of us certainly felt that we would read the book again and hoped to gain a greater understanding of the story and the characters by doing this.
Review by Paston Pals Book Group, Mundesley, Norfolk
Read our interview with Jeremy Page.