About the Book
When sisters Kezia and Rosie arrive at their grandparents’ house in the summer of 1986 they aren’t sure when they’ll see their Mum and Dad again.
While her younger sister Rosie is content playing on the allotment gate and having picnics in the garden, Kezia begins to realise that things aren’t quite what they seem. While embraced in Granddad and Grandma’s loving care, it’s not long before seven-year old Kezia begins to notice strange looks between them, hushed whispers, and secret phone calls. She realises she must step into the frightening adult world if she is to make sense of her parent’s troubled marriage.
Format: Paperback (128 pages) Publisher: Dahlia Publishing
Publication date: 26th March 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction
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Although described as a linked short story collection, I would characterise Kezia and Rosie as more like a novella. There is a narrative thread that runs through the book which means that, in my opinion, the ‘stories’ are best read in sequence rather than dipping in and out in the way you might do with a short story collection.
Narrated from the point of view of seven-year old Kezia, the author really captures the experience of being at an age where you start to understand things you hear whilst not understanding others. In just one of the imaginative metaphors in the book, ‘Words give answers and are windows but sometimes the glass is glazed’. Her mind is full of questions: just why has their mother gone away, and to another country, why do her grandparents need to talk to Roy’s son, and why is their grandmother so antagonistic towards their father? There are also memories of an incident that she tries to push away.
As someone with a younger sister, whom of course I love, I could appreciate Kezia’s occasional frustration with her sister’s maddening antics and the way she is indulged by their grandparents. Sometimes a two year age gap can seem much more and the role of elder sibling can feel like an unwelcome burden especially when her grandfather reminds her ‘there are things that can’t be said around Rosie’. No wonder Kezia comes to think of the adult world as a ‘maze… a lattice of things that can and cannot be said’. Her frustration occasionally comes out in little acts of vandalism, such as the tearing to pieces of a flower.
The girls’ grandfather and grandmother are beautifully drawn characters. Although they find themselves in the unexpected position of looking after the two girls with their established domestic routine disrupted, their love and care for Kezia and Rosie is quite wonderful to witness. And, as we learn, they too have experienced sadness in their lives.
Whilst many scenes in the book are touching and funny, there’s a persistent sense of unease. Something not quite right has occurred in the family but for a long time we don’t know what. Kezia feels she has been thrust into an adult world she can’t understand. ‘The summer has been a mosaic of hints and overheard remarks. They gather around Kezia like stepping stones.’ However, whatever happens, Kezia and Rosie can rest assured they have the love and support of their grandparents. ‘For now, it’s enough to slip underneath Grandma’s arm and wedge into the warm space of her armpit, and elbow Rosie gently to tell her she loves her. And for Grandad to giggle to himself and head over to the allotment to fetch raspberries for tea.’
I really liked how the time period of the 1980s was evoked. Anyone old enough to remember that period will recognise the references to shopping in Fine Fare, or watching television programmes together such as The Generation Game, The Dukes of Hazzard or (Kezia and Rosie’s grandmother’s favourite) Wogan. Those of a certain age will experience a real sense of nostalgia and perhaps give a wry smile at the girls’ excitement at watching the wedding of Prince Andrew and Fergie.
I really enjoyed Kezia and Rosie. It’s a delightful, beautifully written book. My thanks to the author for my digital review copy.
In three words: Tender, insightful, heartwarming
Try something similar: Only May by Carol Lovekin
About the Author
Rebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories. Her story collections, Catching the Barramundi (2012) and The Settling Earth (2014) were both longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Award. Her debut novel, The Bishop’s Girl, was published by Odyssey Books in September 2016, followed by a third short story collection, Artefacts and Other Stories (2017). Beyond the Bay, a sequel to The Settling Earth, was published in 2018. Her first novella, Quilaq, was published by Next Chapter in 2020. (Photo: Author website)