As I get older I’ve noticed I increasingly tend to see adults as the children they once were. Very often now when I meet someone new, I’m more likely to position them in the playground (in my head that is) than into an adult context. I assume it largely comes from watching my two small children navigate their way in and out of relationships, but I’m now sniffing out vulnerabilities, bravado, light armour as subtle as badly applied foundation, like never before.
I was reflecting on this newish, creepy proclivity in light of some of the books that I love and with a view to working out what kind of books I want to find. So many of my favourite books are about the betrayals of a childhood and the young characters they depict are firmly lodged in my heart. Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Eleanor Maud (When God was a Rabbit) and our very own Ailsa from Alison Gangel’s brilliant memoir The Sun Hasn’t Fallen from the Sky to name but a few. Children at the mercy of life’s crap. No hope of control or understanding. In Barbara Bleiman’s Off the Voortrekker Road, recently published through Amazon as an ebook, a young Jewish boy, Jack, tries to find a path through the bluster of his parents’ shaky marriage and the sinister undercurrent of the 1940’s apartheid movement. His quiet desire to ‘do the right thing’ is heartbreaking.
Maybe because we all spend so much time trying to cover up the juvenile cracks and childhood scars there is often something cathartic in reading these kinds of stories. We can all (I like to think) perfectly recall the injustices of childhood, the petty family grievances, the sibling rivalry, the bubbling hot conviction that the world is set against you, and those feelings – the indiscriminate, universal damages – don’t dull with age. The first cut is, actually, the deepest. So, more brilliant writing that evokes the slings and arrows of youth. Please.