Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey
The events in Tatty take place between the years of 1964-74 in Ireland, and the narrator is a young girl, called Tatty. The story starts ordinarily enough, with Tatty describing the day of her brother’s christening and her aunts and uncles and her mum and dad. With trips to the pub, and the races, with her dad gradually filling the narrative and starting at a new school, having to make up the names of friends she hasn’t got to appease her dad. Tatty tells lies and is found out, which leads to punishments. I thought lying was something all children do and grow out of eventually, but what follows is Tatty being sent to a boarding school and only seeing her dad every so often whilst she is there. Her mum is seemingly not well enough to care for her daughter. The comparisons Tatty drew between the different lunches of her and her classmates was interesting, ‘some lunches are big and take up loads of room. And some of the lunches are so small they hardly take up any room.’ And this part I thought was very effective at drawing parallels, ‘little whiskey bottles are called Baby Powers, and if there’s one on the lunch shelf everyone knows it belongs to Niamh Lawlor. Awhile ago you might have seen two Baby Powers on the shelf, and you’d know the second one belonged to Tatty. If someone shouted out, Who owns this other little whiskey bottle? Ce leis e? Tatty would shout back, I do! Mine! Is liomsa e! But that was before Jeannie told her how to be ashamed.’
And there is a building tension in Tatty, with a full house of children, mum and dad fighting and drinking and not getting on, that escalates to more violence and a parent who tries to take their own life.
I thought the prose in Tatty was great, the kind of writing I love to read and the setting well evoked through the viewpoint of a little girl. The direction of the ending was unsatisfactory.
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