A son’s search for his mother

Smith_for_web_Gavr_1202422hAli Smith at the Times Literary Supplement:

Hannah Gavron worked on The Captive Wife from her mid-twenties onward. It traces, in an early chapter, the history of suffrage and the legal progress by which women have moved from a position where “ideas of . . . inferiority were taken as part of the natural order of things” to a place where the notion of second-class citizen “would be inconceivable to the young woman of today”. But it ends its opening section with a terrible revelation of cultural apathy about the huge changes that have taken place, and it asks, “have all the great changes in the position of women in the last one hundred and fifty years come to nothing? The only way to begin to answer this is to study women themselves, in detail, because it is the details which added together will reveal something of the nature and quality of the lives being led by women today”.

To counteract the “unspeakable” nature of his mother’s death, Jeremy Gavron goes into detailed examination, too, in this stunning work with its inbuilt questions about the nature of truth and meaning, its quiet measured renegotiation of history and silence, and its revelations about articulation which won’t be denied whether timely, untimely or ahead of its time.

The form it takes is a piecing together of fragments, patches, verbal shreds, inferences, facts, photographs, texts, the suicide note on an old envelope (“thirty-three words in all – four more than the years of her life”), dug-out bits of paper with his mother’s writing on them, letters lost then found, the memories of the many people he contacts, old diaries mined for any information at all.

more here.