Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/
Judith has been reading Castles In The Air by Alison R Cubitt
Castles in the Air is a form of an epistolary memoir, written by the daughter of Molly Ripley. That, through diary journals belonging to the author’s father, Don, and letters sent by Molly to a family friend, Steve, traces her mother’s life through childhood in wartime and later through her education and work. From the tone of the letters it seems her attraction to Steve lasts well into adulthood. I wondered why his letters were not kept.
The story begins when Molly’ is eleven in 1937. Her letters date from when she and her parents were about to leave England to go to the Far East where her father has important work. These are minutely detailed and, I’m afraid to say, laborious letters of life on the ship, shopping trips, parties, friendships. I would have loved some setting, some information of the world around Molly at this time but, of course, it needs to be kept in mind that this was a child writing. The father’s journals are really sparse notes also.
I found the second half of the story more interesting; the accounts of the family’s struggles, financially and emotionally, from the author’s point of view as she sees her parents from a distance. There is both sadness and poignancy threaded throughout the text after Molly’s marriage, the move to Malaysia, to a rubber plantation, back to England, and then on to New Zealand. there is also the interesting/curious continuing friendship with Steve (seemingly resented by Molly’s husband?) And copious accounts of Molly’s drug addiction.
Time and again throughout Castles in the Air it occurred to me that it would have been fascinating to use all of Molly’s letter and journals as research for a fictitious story. But I am aware that this is a memoir; lovingly and obviously sometimes painfully written by Alison Ripley Cubitt.
The Book Description is so enticing I was eager to read this memoir but I have to say I was disappointed overall. It is a good family memoir which is surely fascinating to and for the author’s family. I think what I wanted more of, was a greater sense of place and more rounded characters. I realise this is probably impossible to glean from the scant details through letters and journals.
After writing this review I have looked for Castles in the Air on Amazon. There are some good five star reviews there; it may be this was just not the style of memoir I enjoy. A daughter is forced to confront the uncomfortable truth of her mother’s seemingly ordinary life. By trying to make sense of the past, will she feel able to move on with her future? Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, Castles in the Air is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams, in an era when women couldn’t have it all.
A daughter is forced to confront the uncomfortable truth of her mother’s seemingly ordinary life. By trying to make sense of the past, will she feel able to move on with her future? Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, Castles in the Air is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams, in an era when women couldn’t have it all.
Alison was born in Malaysia and like many an expat child, was sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. At the age of eight she moved with her family to New Zealand, where she went to school and university.
Bitten by the travel bug, she moved to Australia, then to the United Kingdom where she landed a job in TV and film production, working for companies including the BBC and Walt Disney. But her passion has always been for writing.
She is an author, memoirist, novelist, and screenwriter and co-writes thrillers with Sean Cubitt, writing as Lambert Nagle. Sean’s day job is Professor of Film and Television, Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been published by leading academic publishers.
Serial expats, Lambert Nagle have also lived in Canada and although now based in Hampshire, travel back and forwards to New Zealand whenever they can.