Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not a Booker Winner?...Stephen Kelman's Mum

When I think of my mother I think of a childhood summer spent waking to the smell of solder and the sound of Abba drifting up from a tinny transistor radio in the kitchen, in an unremarkable council house where I learned to read from the books she gave me.
I think of a winter walking her home from the evening job she'd taken packing peanuts so she could buy me the complete Hitchhiker's Guide series that I'd set my heart on for Christmas.
More than any writer, it was my mother who taught me the value of words: how the most prosaic, such as "family" and "duty" and "work", take the most living up to, and how a respect for words might one day bring me the compensations and comforts that she was doing her best to provide by working at two, sometimes three jobs at a time.

My mum is the product of a class who accepted their lot, whose toils were largely thankless and whose dreams defaulted to the modest – a yearly caravan holiday and decent coats for the kids. I'm also a product of that class, but one generation further along and with the benefit of her example – an example given quietly in unfussy acts of generosity – I am able to enjoy the kind of life that she could only aspire to on my behalf.

Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English (Bloomsbury) was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker prize and longlisted for the Guardian First Book award.

A version of this article appeared on p5 of the Guardian review section of the Guardian on .

1 comment:

felicity said...

I've just finished writing a book which reflects, among other things, on my own family background, in Dublin, Enniscorthy and Galway. And I've been wondering, looking back, if the current recession isn't a positive thing in many ways. We need to reconnect with 'prosaic' words like 'family', 'duty' and 'work'. And with the the values, humour, generosity and dreams of the generations that reared us to respect them.