Friday, 15 June 2012

The Story of Beautiful Girl - Rachel Simon

 book cover of 

The Story of Beautiful Girl 

by

Rachel Simon  Beautiful Girl is Lynnie, who turns up with a man and a newborn baby at the home of widowed school teacher Martha.  From that moment all their lives are changed, and in the minutes before the police take Lynnie back to The School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, the baby is given into the care of Martha.  This then becomes a story which stretches over 30+ years and is unputdownable.  Lynnie does not speak (speech inpedement or mute?)  The man she came is profoundly deaf and therefore cannot speak, and they have both excaped from The School.....

Incredibly easy to push the problems of those who are not the same as us to the back of your mind.  To give them a label without knowing if that label is correct or not.  Please do, when you get there, read Rachel Simon's notes at the end of the book.  She has a sister affected in this way, and her research is solid.  I can confirm that this was not only an American problem.  For some years after WW2, (from the start of the National Health Service) both my parents worked at a mental hospital.  Una, a good friend of my mother's was incarcerated at 15 because - she came from a good family and had the inconvenience to fall pregnant! She was in her 40's when my mother met her.  My father was an upholsterer - in those days the hospital was run, very much like the one in the book, as a self contained village.  My father's workshop assistant was Walter, shell-shocked from the first World War, who could no longer speak.  I do not recall stories of ill-treatment from that hospital though, quite the opposite, and many years later my husband worked there in the maintenance department for a few years, so I feel that I do know something of this subject.

Back to the book then.  It's a rollercoaster of a read - the main characters are not in touch with each other (to say more will spoil the story), so we see how each life develops without any of them knowing of the others.  I must say that the last few pages moved me to tears - many ends were tied up, and I finished with a feeling of satisfaction of having known Lynnie and the other characters.  This is the first of Rachel Simon's books I have read - but I will look out for others now.