Monday, 26 October 2015

Molly and the Muslim Stick David Dabydeen

I can't recall ever being introduced so rapidly into a story. The first pages of this novel really set the scene very efficiently.

It's hard to be enthusiastic, though, because the story is mostly lifelike and dreadful. On reading this I wonder, yet again, if 'God' (by whatever name) has chosen the wrong species to attempt consciousness. I cannot think of any other, except maybe ants, that systematically farm others for their whole lifespan; and even ants decline to do so to their own species, preferring the relatively senseless greenfly, and definitely skip abuse of their own family.

Part 1 is set in Accrington, Lancashire, and Molly, the central character endures poverty, a mad mother and sexual abuse from her father and his pals. Both the poverty and the mother's madness contribute to the onset of abuse.

In part 2 Molly escapes from Accrington to train as a teacher at the Leeds Institute. She feels compelled to relive some of her abuse with the privileged youthful students; begins conversations with her walking stick; and finally ends up in a mental institution.

In part 3 Molly moves to Coventry and finds a job as a teacher. She attracts odd company (again): an illegal immigrant with no grasp of English, a beautiful pupil from her school that she fears she'll corrupt, and a fellow teacher, Eileen, who is everything Molly isn't – stable, organised, bored.

Surprisingly, Eileen flips (in the view of the police and local press) and stages a one-woman demonstration outside an arms factory; both her career and Molly's are soon threatened, and most upsetting for Molly, the immigrant (they've named him Om) goes away.

Part 4 is comprised entirely of letters from Molly to Carol (the schoolgirl) as Molly goes to Demerara in search of Om. Molly is cleansed by her experience with Om's tribe, but do read it for yourself to find out how!

I was disappointed by the author telling us (on the final page) that there's oodles of love and grief – I'd rather the story had made me feel it.

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