Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Swift Pure Cry - Siobhan Dowd

Sadly the author died too young to reach her full potential - but she never wrote a bad book.  This one, aimed at Young Adults, tells Michelle's (Shell) story, following the death of her mother, leaving her to look after two younger siblings whilst her father drinks away any money he has.  Is he a thief?  Is he a n'er-do-well?  Is it grief of his loss that made him the man he has become?  It doesn't matter because Shell just has to get on with things, feed the family if there is money to do so, and go hungry if there is not.  Here in Catholic Ireland, the priest knows all and does nothing, for God will provide.

I don't know that I could have done any better than Shell under the circumstances.  The kids are always dirty - never enough money for soap power, and the washing machine, broken since her mother's death is not going to be repaired or replaced when the money can be used for Dad to drink.  The new Curate, Father Rose, is a breath of fresh air in the village - for some folk rather too fresh, for he is not the kind of priest they are used to.

This was hard to read, in the way that medicine is hard to swallow.  I really felt for Shell, reaching out for help without actually asking for it, reaching out for love and comfort without really understanding it.  This is a tale told hundreds of times before, but this one really made me feel that I understood the position that Shell was in.  A terrible dilemma, and no help available.  Harsh but with redemption on the horizon - this is a great read for 12 upwards, as an adult I found it easy to read and can totally agree with the reviewer from the Irish Independent, who said "...should be read by anyone who is or ever was a teenager." Click here if you want to find out more about the Siobhan Dowd Trust, set up by Siobhan before she died, and what they do for disadvantaged young readers.

A Swift Pure Cry (2006)