Three generations of women make their way through the obstacles that life throws at you - yet another family saga, I thought. But no, this book is so much more. The family saga is done brilliantly well; the reader moves effortlessly between generations and decades as if reminiscing - without any of that lurching time-shift that you so often get with books of this kind. I loved the pseudo thesis style too, with frequent dictionary definitions used to break the text up into numbered sections, and witty descriptions of 1970s tv programmes as footnotes in the style of a cultural studies thesis.
But the best thing about it is the story itself, as it is slowly revealed in increasing complexity like peeling layers off an onion. Rebecca struggles to make sense of the relationships between herself, her sister and her mother, between her mother, her aunt and her grandmother, and of her own marriage, her mothers and her aunts. Why does her mother hate her grandmother? What is the cause of the rivalry between her mother and her aunt? Why doesnt her husband want to have children? And, most of all, why did her mother kill herself?
Carole Cadwalladr takes us through emotionally charged explorations of family relationships, of love and trust, of nature vs nurture all the while giving us a painfully accurate look at the lifestyle and aspirations of the middle classes in the late 1970s. She challenges you and gives you something to think about on almost every page.