Book Review: Stay Alive Till ’75


Ration Books were launched into the world early last month. The first print run of the three opening titles sold out within a fortnight. A reprint was arranged. These are pocket sized quick reads intended to be: disposed of, passed on, left for other readers to find. They are the antithesis of the glossy, spredged, author signed and personally dedicated, collectable editions currently proliferating in the ‘Big 5’ book world. They will not be made available for reading on screens.

The first Ration is a triptych by Adelle Stripe, each piece connected to the Holderness Coast. Its preface offers an introduction to ‘this oddly hypnotic place’ where the author’s mother and her family originated. What follows are two memoir pieces bookending a poem/lament narrated by a fisherman’s wife.

The first memoir piece recounts summer holidays spent with maternal grandparents. Banish any images you may conjure of a loving grandmother. The author was granted no choice as a child but to be left in the care of a woman in thrall to the ‘shady religious cult’ known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Her personal cruelty was masked by religion as if it were a way of appeasing inner demons. The more she preached, the less her shadow self was shown to Him and the rest of the congregation.”

Despite pontificating that a wife should be subservient to her husband, the grandfather was henpecked and secretly rebelled. The author ponders if many of her own later interests were the result of kicking against the life her grandmother attempted to inculcate.

The writing slants towards the humorous yet contains much that is grim.

The second piece – structured as poetry and written for live performance – appears less personal but equally poignant. When dealing with an often absent and unreliable husband, a woman is advised to earn for herself. The narrator lives a hard life but, even when his boat goes down, never loses hope that her beloved will return.

The third and final piece is a study on grief set a year after the death of the author’s mother.

“Instead of sitting around feeling sorry about it all, I listened to her talking – my now imaginary mother, who only exists as a memory.”

These three short works deal with challenging restrictions – abuse, poverty, death – yet they remain uplifting. Negativity is countered by internal strength – pushing against trials and using them as life lessons. If this sounds like saccharine woo woo fear not, there is plenty of bite within these pages. Notable is the lack of blame, the ownership of what a person becomes, however influenced.

An impressive opening for what is an interesting endeavour. Whatever its length, fine writing provides worthwhile reading.

adelle laceImage credit: Lisa Cradduck

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