A Young Lady’s Miscellany by Auriel Roe

I loved this book. It might have been the nostalgia for my own childhood that has tempered my view of it or the very Britishness of it but Auriel Roe’s memoir is a read that will stay with me long after I have finished it.

The book is the author’s recollections from her own life, starting with her very different grandmothers, and growing up in northern England, through her school years, college days, boyfriends, first jobs and finally, to motherhood. It is an amalgamation of experiences and musings which have been grouped in a similar manner to a book that she found at her grandmother’s house called A Young Lady’s Miscellany.

Auriel Roe’s younger life, as is to be expected, was shaped somewhat by her family and the relationships that she has with members of it. Her discussion of her grandmothers, especially Manda is full of warm remembrances and humorous stories as well as contemplation of how she has been influenced by them. However, there is also regret at how she could have gained more from them, especially with her maternal grandmother, May. Her father has importance too but not necessarily positive and there is a sense of disappointment in the way that he conducted himself throughout the book.

I think what I liked most was the candid nature in which it was related. Roe has a dry wit which permeates the retelling of her life’s experiences and had me laughing out loud. There is one story in particular of her time in school in Caerleon, Wales which, even after finishing it, when remembered, makes me chuckle to myself and probably will far into the future.

In some respects, as lives go, Roe’s is not particularly remarkable. There are no lurid stories really, just the normal rites of passage and milestones which chart the progression from child to adult: finding out who you are in terms of your role models; making friends at school; interest in the opposite sex and the world that opens up as a result; deciding what you want to do with your life or not, as the case may be; lovers; employment; and children. But its frank examination is what makes it stand out.

This book’s strength lies in its candour and its humour and I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed it nor how the line “They’re chucking Oscar!” will never fail to make me smile.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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