Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Sixpenny Song by Jennifer Johnston

 Not every death is a tragedy. Not every silver lining is intact.

Annie's Father is dead. She isn't sorry. A rich and domineering man, he was always passionate about money than the happiness of his wife and child. And when his lovely, fragile wife Jude died in mysterious circumstances when Annie was still very young, her Father sent her to school in England, and tried to ensure that Jude was never mentioned again.
Now, at last, his days of tyranny are over. And so Annie leaves London and goes back to Dublin, to the house in which he lived and her mother died, where she makes the first of several startling discoveries: he has left her the house she hated. Now, just when she thought she was free of him, she is expeected to make a new life in Ireland, and live as he would have wished. Does she dare to defy him one more time? And who will be able to tell her the truth about her mother's life, and death, before she has to decide?

Jennifer Johnston is one of the foremost Irish writers of her, or any generation. She has won the Whitbread Prize, the Evening Standard Best First Novel Award, the Yorkshire Post Award and the Best Book of the Year Award.

This is going to sound amazingly harsh, but judging by the book I have just read, A Sixpenny Song, written by her.. I sincerely hope her others were much better.

I'll be honest - I'm not much of a heavy reader. I like my chick-lit, Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Crime and some Fantasy. I'm not even sure which category this book falls in to.

The story starts with the lead character Annie learning that her Father has died. You get the feeling he was a strict man, not someone she cared for - which you soon learn she hasn't seen for over 10 years. He has left her their very large home, which she apparently hated but is never explained as to why (apart from her Mother died there) so she returns to Ireland where she grew up, to sell the house.

Annie's Mother died when she was around 10 or 11 and she has never really known how she died. <-- a="" about="" actually="" annie="" away.="" bit="" but="" caused="" come="" concern="" confusing.="" died="" first="" for="" has="" hear="" here="" in="" me="" mother="" nbsp="" never="" out="" p="" place.="" right="" s="" she="" that="" the="" this="" thought="" truth="" truths="" was="" way="" what="" which="" you="">
My second concern was that Annie's Father is made out to be this nasty, controlling, horrid man.. when in fact I didn't seem to feel that at all. The only thing he did that was controlling was send her to boarding school and then try and get her to start in his own business. Boarding school is a bit harsh for anyone, I can imagine. But he wanted her to have a well paid, secure and friendly job.. where is the harm in that? Annie may not have wanted it, and she didn't take it. End of story, right?

Through the story, Annie flashes back to her childhood where she recalls memories of her Mother, Father and their house servants. In every flashback she has, her Father comes across as a loving and caring man. Yes, he has a controlling streak - but not in a malicious intent. It seemed odd that this was the character we were meant to dislike, yet I found myself feeling sorry for him, almost as if he were misunderstood. We always want what is best for our children, yet the choices he made for his daughter, he was forever hated for. We get to see glimpses of him being loving towards Annie, caring and sometimes regretful. But never hateful.

Even when Annie finds his diaries after his death, where he explains his love for her and speaks of her even after she has cut all ties with him - she still hates him. Why? If someone could help me understand, I would love to hear your feedback with this.

Amongst the story, you learn of Annie's Mother, Jude, and her the secret life she lead through character Kevin. In my eyes, it is Jude who is the character who should be disliked. 

**Spoiler alert - do not read if you don't want to know**

 She married too young, got pregnant, realised she didn't love her husband, started an affair with Kevin, became more and more unhappy in marriage so started drinking, became pregnant and then killed herself. I fail to see where I am supposed to feel sad for this woman? Apart from the fact she felt sad enough to take her own life, obviously.. but it all seemed self inflicted. While I know a sad life is not the only reason for suicide, there is no inkling of a mental condition at all.

Her husband was not violent. He was caring, attentive, financially stable. It was Jude who decided they should sleep in seperate bedrooms and Jude who had the affair. Am I missing something?

I was very unsatisfied with the ending. I don't know what I was supposed to feel. We find out that Jude killed herself - which after reading the beginning is pretty obvious, and that she had an affair. And then the book ends with Annie walking out on the man who tells her.


I realise that this is usually not my type of book which is why I probably didn't get on with it. But, I just didn't see the point of it. When the book ended, I felt like the story should have just been beginning.

The one positive thing I will mention though is that the book is very easy to read. There is no confusion and as always, I love the descriptions of Ireland.

It is neither a light read, nor a heavy novel. It merely just is.

Disclosure: I was sent this book free of charge for the purpose of this review. Of course all opinions are my own.

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