I first heard about this book at the Bookshop Band event at our local bookshop Mainstreet Trading. The bookshop band write songs about books they have read and then perform them. This was one of the books that was included in the performance we heard. Immediately I was interested a book about growing up in the 1980’s in Lanarkshire. Both the era and the place I was brought up in. There was also a Margaret Thatcher connection hence the title and I have long thought that like it or hate it the Thatcher years for us kids of the 1980’s have left a long-lasting legacy on us. So I bought it.
Last weekend I sat down to read what I thought was a fictional book. As I said in my previous post I often have to read non fiction for a variety of reasons. https://fionadranesblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/book-39-behind-the-beautiful-for-evers-katherine-boo/. But if I am reading for pleasure I am averse to reading non fiction. Yet as soon as I opened the book I realised that this wasn’t a fiction book it was a memoir of Damian Barr’s childhood. Despite this I was drawn in on the first page and knew that fiction or non fiction this was a wonderful book.
It initially drew me in as it made me laugh and a question I had posed on Facebook the previous weekend was answered within the first few pages. My daughter was on the stage last Saturday night with her drama club and I had been doing her hair and her make up. It reminded me of a toy I had as a child but couldn’t remember it. Friends did though it was called “Girls World” and it was mentioned within the first few pages. The decades fell away and I was back in the 1980’s in deepest darkest Lanarkshire.
In reality Damian Barr had a very hard up bringing and he brings it all to life in this book. You can picture every event in your head. Really hard scenes when his parents split up, his step dad beats him up, his mother takes seriously ill and his little cousin dies. These scenes will make you cry and though I thankfully did not have to suffer the first three in childhood sadly my sister’s best friend died very young and I still to this day can remember the shock of her death, the raw grief of her parents and the small coffin in the packed church.
This might sound as if it’s a sad book. It isn’t. It is one of the most heart warming books I have read in a long time. Even in the toughest of times Damian has the ability to look at the best side of things and he comes through to adult hood an intelligent man with aspirations to be the journalist he now is. He has known since early childhood that he is gay and that is a fascinating thing to read as he hides it in secondary school before coming out at the end of his school career. It takes you back to how difficult that would have been at the time and for many today still is.
It is heart warming due to Damian’s strength of character but also the way he brings the other characters of his childhood to life. His mother. His father. The two-step dad’s that follow and the parties that are held in the house on benefit day with Buckfast causing havoc. His father’s bidy in Mary the Canary. The wonderful Heather and so many others just bring his childhood to life. Yes it’s a make you laugh book. Make you cry book. And as for Maggie? Where does she fit in? Well I suggest you read the book to find out.
Maggie and Me is in my top ten books of the year which I will write at the end of the year. I usually pick them from my reviews at the end of the year. But Maggie and Me is so good it’s in the top charts already. And it’s a non fiction book.