Everlasting Lane, by Andrew Lovett, explores the effects of trauma on both the present and memory. Told from the point of view of ten year old Peter Lambert, who moves with his mother to a cottage on Everlasting Lane in the village of Amberley following the death of his father, it is a poignant tale of the difficulty of communication and lack of understanding between children and adults. It is about choices and their consequences, of the dangers of secrets and what reality means to each individual.
On his first day in his new surroundings Peter meets Anna-Marie, a slightly older girl who appears to spurn authority. Anna-Marie possesses a curiosity apparently lacking in Peter. The boy lives for the moment, conjuring from his surroundings imaginary worlds that he weaves into his games. What may appear obvious to adults, there in plain sight, he ignores fearing what he may learn and have to face.
Set in the mid 1970s the village harbours damaged survivors from the Second World War attempting to cope with their experiences amidst the disparagement of those who do not understand why they act as they do. It also has a sadistic headmistress whose religious vehemence borders on the deranged. Other than inciting fear, the eccentricities of these adults are accepted by the children. Adults, after all, rarely act in ways that children can reason with. Words that are understood by both are hard to find; deeds are done to the young over which they exert scant control.
Anna-Marie introduces Peter to a classmate, Tommie, and the three form a fractious friendship group with the girl as their leader. They wander the village exploring places where they often shouldn’t be. When Peter mentions that there is a room in his cottage which his mother keeps locked and has never talked of, the trio set out to discover what it contains.
Their findings offer up a mystery to be solved. Anna-Marie uses this as a distraction from her own fears of impending secondary school little realising the effect their discoveries will have on Peter, who himself lives unaware of the traumas in his friends’ lives.
Although childhood contains the innocence of a lack of wider knowledge and understanding there is little serene about living with the cruelties and constant oneupmanship of peers and the frustrations of rules imposed by the plethora of micromanaging adults. This world is brilliantly, painfully evoked. Peter’s mother is doing her best but has her own demons to face. Neither can effectively communicate to the other how they feel.
“he was talking like he thought things that weren’t real weren’t as important as things that were. […] But I think they’re wrong in a way because there was a lot of stuff in my head that wasn’t real but was really important: like the things I wanted to happen or the things I wished had happened instead of the things that had.”
Peter is living with the consequences of actions that set off chains of events affecting the people he relied on for love. The story is told as a simple childhood mystery yet it contains layers of emotion. The writing is subtle yet devastating in its perceptiveness.
Whilst empathising with each of the main characters I could see no way around the dilemmas they faced. Peter was urged to focus on what was important, but those urging could only comprehend what seemed important to them.
The story got under my skin. It is distressing in places yet woven together with skill and sensitivity. It is a reminder that words needed at a critical moment can too often prove elusive. This is a tale worthy of wider consideration.