Friday, 20 July 2012

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

Janie Ryan is born to a long line of Aberdeen fish wives and into a childhood of living in hostels, B&Bs and council estates. This book follows the trials and tribulations of growing up with a mother who, whilst always wanting to provide the best for her child, has poor taste in men and really does get close to hitting rock bottom all shown through the eyes of a child.

The book starts with the birth of the latest Ryan woman, who's father is a mysterious, married American, and it is from there that things are seen to go downhill with her first 4 weeks in this world being spent in a women's help centre. This is Janie's first introduction as to what to expect in her life and, to begin with, she sees it all with the childish innocence that makes it seem all that much worse for the reader.

As fear and shame are gradually introduced into her life far too soon for our liking she comes to see the differences between her family and home compared to others, usually coming out worse. This, however, is a slow process and throughout most of the book I'd say that her innocence protects Janie from what could've been some devastating truths for a young girl. Eventually though the bitterness and awareness win out and the last third of the book is told through the eyes of an angry, teenage cynic who see's her mum as she really is and doesn't want to become her, despite the groups and habits she falls into.

There are some really touching moments in this book that push the reader along to read 'just one more page' until you find you're at the end and, for me any rate, very grateful for having the family I have. I found Janie to be a character that I started to invest my feelings in as I followed her through her childhood. Ms Hudson does well to make sure the reader relates and empathises with Janie as well as her mum and you find yourself hoping that the next move and the next guy will be the right one for all of them.

On the surface this appears to be a tale of woe about a single mother being given all the short straws and the daughter having to suffer too. If you look deeper, however, it's a tale about the strength of a bond between a mother and her child, how it didn't matter how bad things got for her because she could handle it as long as she had her daughter with her and knew she was safe.

This is a very interesting read and an emotional piece of modern fiction that gives the reader an insight into a life which they possibly have never had to experience. It leaves you hoping for more, hoping for better and really hoping that Janie Ryan does good with her life. Kerry Hudson has managed to make a potentially depressing subject into something laced with wit and occasionally humourous observations.

What makes this all the more interesting is that the 'About The Author' bit in the back of the book lets us know that Kerry Hudson is not writing this without any knowledge of her subject but has lived in council estates and B&Bs (and I really hope that's as far as her knowledge goes because some of it is heart wrenching) so you just know that she knows.

I recommend this book for anyone looking to pick up a new author (her twitter mentions she's working on a second book so she hopefully isn't a 'one-time appearance' sorta woman) as well as people who are interested in modern fiction that isn't just women sipping wine in their flats, deciding to take on the world and picking up a guy on the way - this is a far more interesting and thought provoking stance on the genre.