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Family Connections

Chrissie Gittins

"I think about lifting a carrot off the floor. We could do with a bit of hardboard between here and knitwear.” Finally, he got up and wandered into the lounge, first making sure that he had a pocketful of chocolate. "

Reviewed by Zoe King

I’m thinking of taking out an injunction against Chrissie Gittins. Somehow, in the writing of Family Connections, she infiltrated my head, and my history. She’s like a female Alan Bennett, such is the power of her observation, and at times, I found the stories in this book came discomfortingly close to my own experience. Chrissie was born in Lancashire. I was born just over the border in Cheshire, possibly at around the same time, so there will be parallels, but what she has in great spades, is memory. Things I’d entirely forgotten, seemingly minor things, she has retained, and in these stories, she offers them up, making me realise yet again that one’s personal history is often about minor memories, because those things can hold such a key to context.   

Lady Macbeth opens with a woman recalling her school days; ‘I loved Mrs Marshall. We all did.’ Then we read an account of her copy of Macbeth. ‘I… filled in my name and form on the sticker on the inside cover. Above my name was Sheila Standring LIVM 1963, June Holt LIVW 1964.’ Because the author already had me with American Tan, an account of stockings, and how for the narrator, they were never long enough (for me, they were never short enough!) I had an instantaneous response to those names. This was my school she was talking about. This was my copy of Macbeth too because I also remember the reference to Man from U.N.C.L.E that came underneath, ‘written in pencil and then rubbed out.’. Then there is talk of backing books with ‘remnants of anaglypta and bathroom washable’. Again, I found myself lost in memories, of the fights I had with my brother and sister at start of term, where there was never enough wallpaper to go round, and the first one home from school ended up with the best dressed books.

She is a real ‘story teller’, is Chrissie Gittins. She writes of real people living real and sometimes uncomfortable lives. She doesn’t wrap them in fancy language because they don’t need it, and probably wouldn’t welcome it. And it’s because of that direct approach that her stories work to such effect. 

(This review was first published in Cadenza magazine.)

Zoe King is a freelance writer and editor currently living in Norfolk. Editor of Cadenza, and a member of both The Society of Authors and The Society of Women Writers and Journalists, her first love is the short story. Her debut collection, as yet untitled, will be published by Salt Publishing in June 2008. (This review was published before Zoe's collection was accepted by Salt.)







Publisher: Salt Publishing

Publication Date: April 2007


First collection?: Yes

Other publications: Three collections of poetry

Awards: Longlisted for the Frank O’Connor international short story award 2007

Author bio: Chrissie Gittins was born in Lancashire and studied at Newcastle University and St Martin’s School of Art. She worked as an artist and a teacher before becoming a freelance writer. She writes poetry, radio drama, short stories, and poetry for children. In 2005 she was awarded an Arts Council Grant to complete this collection.

Read an interview  with Chrissie Gittins

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