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Russell, J. (2016). Pieces of Molly: an ordinary life. J. Child Psychother., 42(1):88-90.

(2016). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 42(1):88-90

Pieces of Molly: an ordinary life

Jo Russell

This is a rich and joyous read. Part memoir, part novel, part infant and young child observation, part cathartic exorcism of parental ghosts, this book is a hybrid, a ‘tapestry’ in Edwards’ own terms. It is a rare beast.

We are never told directly by Edwards that this is indeed autobiographical, a memoir rather than a novel, that this is indeed and of course Judith’s own childhood story rather than Molly’s as surely as she slips from the third to the first person when dramatic momentum overtakes description as it often does. Presumably names have been changed to protect the innocent, yet the intimate twin interiors of Molly’s life, the minute blow-by-blow of unfolding family dynamics and the landscape-under-construction of Molly’s own internal world, are laid bare for all to see. Innocence and liveliness abound, but also passion, betrayal, isolation, death. Undoubtedly this is a book, full as it is of one and ‘another stirring scene in the family soap opera’ (p. 98) that could only have been written once ‘Molly’s’ parents were deceased and her own child grown.

We find Molly deep in the heart of nature on a Norfolk farm, and she is sharply fascinated by the nature of all things. From the start she is clever and insightful, a baby detective intent on fathoming the mysteries of worlds she is excluded from by her ignorance, her age, her gender, her class. When her younger brother is invited to join the labourers for a male carousal after harvest, Molly eavesdrops and purloins forbidden fruit nonetheless by adopting the powerful new word ‘bugger’ into her vocabulary. She is aware of being invisibly but undeniably different from the village children with whom she must trade the riches of turns on her bicycle for entry into their games and secrets. For Molly knowledge is power, or at least a profound reassurance in the face of anxieties both existential and prosaic. She is equally compelled by witnessing an egg as it emerges from the laying hen’s cloaca as she is by the repeated story of her father euthenising his favourite dog, or the death of their cleaner’s father, all of which she records as affording a sense of import and of revelation: ‘a huge privilege, putting her in touch with the infinite, the unknowable’ (p. 113).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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