"This is not a ghost story; not as such. But then I suppose that depends on your definition of ghosts."
This is not a ghost story; not as such. But then I suppose that depends on your definition of ghosts. Actress Joanna Lumley tells the story of the day she moved into her new home (a Victorian-built villa). She says she encountered the spirit of a coalman in the cellar who bellowed angrily at her: ‘Get out of my house! before he simply vanished into thin air.
‘Moving isnt like that, but a powerful sense of past lives nevertheless hangs heavy in the atmosphere of Edwina Spinners Kennington home, a place where she has lived for almost exactly 50 years. Thats not to say the past routinely informs the everyday present here: but after half-a-century, Edwina is at last leaving – and in leaving, she cannot help but disturb long-buried experiences; the shades of the past. Some are sweet, cheerful and loving.
Others are far from that.
Edwina is guiding a friendly but callow young estate agent through her home. Its a standard showing but she suddenly wonders what hed say if she ‘turned round right now and bluntly told him: “I lived here with a man who died very suddenly on a beach. We had two children. I married another man who had a wife before me and a son that I could never love. This house has our blood, sweat, love, laughter and betrayal seeped into its very bones. I might leave this place, but bits of me will remain here, tears soaked deep into the floorboards. You could hoover this place forever and youd never get rid of us completely.
See what I mean about ghosts?
"An absolute page-turner of a story which does end with redemption of sorts…"
The cleverness of Jenny Éclairs writing in Moving is that you begin to think you are settled in for a long haul of rattling-chained remembrance as seen through Edwinas eyes (now the wrinkled, twinkly eyes of an elderly woman. She laughs when she catches sight of herself in the bathroom mirror. ‘Who on earth is this tiny silver-haired woman with the squirrel-brown eyes? Where is the twenty-two-year-old brunette beauty with her laughing crimson lips and the baby-swollen belly?)
And then Eclair pulls the switch. Suddenly the familys story is being told through the eyes of an interloper; a young student: the clever, if gauche, Fern, who is reading drama at Manchester. It is 1980. We are in a post-Punk, pre-Aids world. Fern is from the Home Counties and is caught in a mostly friendly clash between her northern housemates working class world view and her own pro-Thatcher background.
And then she meets Charlie, Edwinas beloved son, twin brother to Rowena. There is something Byronesque about Charlie – wild-haired, wild-eyed, gorgeous, charming and artistically gifted. He has a Spanish student girlfriend but Fern allows him to take her to bed and dreams of dismissing her exotic rival.
Will Charlie – beautiful, flawed, Charlie – let everyone down in the end? Fern, twin sister Rowena, mother Edwina, and ultimately himself?
An absolute page-turner of a story which does end with redemption of sorts – just not of the person you are expecting.