I always look forward to meeting my book club friends in the two different groups I belong to; however, sometimes it’s tempered by the knowledge that once again I haven’t enjoyed the book we’ve been reading, and worry that I must seem so critical and negative. So it’s with great and joyful anticipation that I’m looking forward to next get-together as we’re reading a wonderful book. The last book was a memoir which looked back at the author’s family history as well as their own and also told their story in an unconventional way, through describing how the very old garden of the very old house that they’d bought was renovated. I found it confusing, verbose, overblown… a wonderful idea that for me didn’t work. Our next book is also a memoir, but within reading the first couple of pages I was hooked – not just by the subject which dominated the writer’s early life, but by the engaging and vivid way it’s written.
Rebecca Stott spent her early life with her family as a member of the Exclusive Brethren, an evangelical sect or cult with very rigid rules governing every aspect of a person’s life. Rebecca and her father managed to leave the Brethren, and her story – her true story, begins with her father’s last months before he died in a remote and crumbling house in the Cambridgeshire fens. Her writing is so wonderful, every word counts, and yet it flows like a really gripping novel although of course it’s actually true. The way she describes the fen where she lives brought back many memories for me, but for those who don’t know the area, a realistic image of the desolate, haunting (and maybe haunted) landscape is evoked. She very cleverly weaves the different strands of her story – her research and investigation into her family history, the stories of her bizarre childhood, the story of her extraordinary father and how he struggled to write his life story and ended up begging Rebecca to write it for him, and I’m sure other themes I’ve not come to yet. Her father’s family had been members of the sect for generations so to try and ‘escape’ from that familiar yet frightening world must have been fraught to say the least. It is not written chronologically and yet it is not muddled or confusing, there’s no need to flip back to previous pages and chapters to try and work out what’s happening! I’m only a few chapters into the book and can’t wait to plunge back into it! The title of the book is ‘In the Days of Rain’