Book review: Mother’s Ruin by Kitty Neale

Love in all its different forms provides the backcloth for Kitty Neale’s captivating slice of family life in 1960s London.

Thursday, 6th January 2011, 6:00 am

A story of cruelty, betrayal and misfortune, Mother’s Ruin recalls an age of hard graft and hardship when many women struggled to beat the bounds of home and domestic duty.

But amidst all the grit and the grind is a timeless tale with a heart that beats in tune with the hopes and fears of women of any generation.

Neale has the gift of creating believable characters whose lives and relationships unfold in compelling and recognisable family dramas which have won her an army of devoted fans.

Neale grew up in Battersea, London, and it’s here we meet Sally Jones who is happily married to Arthur and has a lively five-year-old daughter Angela, known to the family as ‘Angel’.

Angel has inherited her mother’s extra sensory perception and is already startling everyone by describing a long ago world of tin baths, irons in the fire and washing tubs.

Arthur works for his father’s removal business and adores both his wife and child, but their cosy world changes when they are forced to move back to Sally’s mother’s home in downmarket Candle Lane to care for Granny Sadie who has had a stroke.

Sadie’s illness has turned her into an angry and bigoted woman and there are problems with the next door neighbour’s little ruffian son Tommy who runs wild on the streets while his mother hits the bottle.

Meanwhile, Sally’s mother Ruth is haunted by memories of her daughter’s father, a man with whom she had an affair during the war years, and Arthur is increasingly frustrated by the lack of privacy at the crowded house in Candle Lane.

Cracks start to appear in their marriage and when his friend Joe Somerton returns from Australia with a plan to build new and affordable houses, Arthur jumps at the chance to join him in the venture.

But Sally’s spiritual powers sense danger ahead and when a devastating accident happens, she could never have imagined the effect it will have on her family life.

There are tough choices ahead as relationships are put to the test.

A warm and wise page-turner.

(Avon, paperback, £6.99)