I borrowed this one from Ma a while ago and finally got to reading it at the tail end of last month. I enjoyed it, I love her writing in the Guardian and this was just more of it. Some of it was quite close to home, she is a couple of months younger than me and North/South divide notwithstanding, I remember some of this. (Like Grace, I also got shoved into a ‘modular science’ GCSE.)
Some of the things that she ascribes to being working class and Gen X, seem to have more to do with being Northern or down to her family. I remember how the food we bought changed in the eighties and nineties but not on the scale it happened to the Dent’s. My mother has always been fairly anti sugar, we were the weird family who didn’t drink hot drinks with sugar in them, and my Grandad didn’t bring us sweets every week, we got fruit and breakaways for our packed lunches. (The cousins did get sweets from Grandad, I’m still bitter but on the plus side didn’t have my first filling until I was 19!). Christmas did get a tiny bit more elaborate, we started to have smoked salmon sandwiches after Church but we never ate turkey for Christmas.
She writes brilliantly about her heady experience of London in 1996 and it’s so weird to see London through her eyes because when you’re from here, it’s different.
I also think it’s vulnerable in a particular working class way. Throughout the book, she details that her father basically abandoned three children, she talks about it, about how she begins to realise something isn’t right, yet can’t put her finger on it and then her shock when she knows what he did. She alludes to this being why she ‘runs’ away but she never looks too closely or tells you what she feels about it. All the information is there and yet not. It feels familiar, honest but not truly open, because you can’t stop people knowing facts but there’s no reason to be emoting everywhere, I like her more for it and for this, which I couldn’t agree with more:
Some years would pass before I accepted that my type of working-class people are really not suited to being bohemian, as bohemian really means chaotic, self-destructive, whimsical and a bit whiffy. Most North London bohemians would be a lot happier if they stopped wife-swapping and got a nice ‘To-Do’ list on the go; then their homes might be full of neat rows of fabric conditioned socks, rather than self-involved sobbing, cat piss and orchidsHungry – Grace Dent