5 out of 5 stars
Natasha Carthew is Cornish born and bred. Her family have a long history in the county too and were responsible for building most of the village that she was born and grew up in. She no longer lives there for a number of reasons the most significant is that she is not in a financial position to be able to afford a property there. There are villages now where no locals live, they are all owned by rich people with second homes or people who let them to the influx of summer visitors.
She had everything going against her growing up, poor female and also gay, she was one of the disposed people in the poorest county in the UK. They lived off her mum’s income, as her dad considered anything that he earnt to just be for him. He wasn’t around much either, having ducked responsibilities he was a womaniser and always had a girlfriend or two, one of whom moved into the flat above them with him at one point!
Her mum was resourceful and resilient though, always ensuring that Carthew and her sister were fed and looked after. They managed to move into the village to a slightly larger home, which helped a little. School was a struggle, mostly because she couldn’t see the point, but the chance finding of a leaflet with a course that really appealed to give her a path out of the vicious poverty circle she found herself in.
She went to the very edge of the abyss several times and the thing that kept her here then is the same thing that keeps her sane now and that is her writing
This is not an easy book to read by any means, it is an emotionally charged book full of raw prose and revelations of her upbringing. The is as much a personal memoir as it is a critique of the way that the Cornish have been abandoned by the UK government. High property prices because of the influx of second homeowners combined with low seasonal wages mean that most people born in Cornwall cannot afford to live there now. Whilst Carthew has come to terms with not being able to live in the place she chooses, many in the county are being forced out. It would be nice to think that those in power would read a book like this, but I somehow doubt they will. If you have read Lowborn by Kerry Hudson then this should be on your reading list too.