MISS McKIRDY'S DAUGHTERS WILL NOW DANCE THE HIGHLAND FLING by Barbara Kinghorn

MISS McKIRDY'S DAUGHTERS WILL NOW DANCE THE HIGHLAND FLING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The evocative autobiography of an actress born and bred in Johannesburg, whose mother found fulfillment in teaching her daughters--and other daughters of South Africa--the traditional dances of Scotland. As the book begins, ""Miss McKirdy lives with her three daughters . . . in a dutchgabled house on the outskirts of Johannesburg."" Miss McKirdy had declined to take her husband's name, but was married to a fellow Scot who had immigrated to South Africa. Daddy was a drunk, and Mummy coped by training her daughters and others' to be champions of Highland dance and by teaching elocution at a Roman Catholic convent school. Author Kinghorn was the youngest of the dancing daughters, preceded by Jilly, nicknamed China because of her china-doll complexion, and Annie, born on a Sabbath ""bonny and bright and good and gay."" As Barbara tells the tale, she was neither the prettiest nor the most appealing dancer, but like her mother, she was a survivor, winning the South African dance championship, marrying, and moving to England, where for a period she worked with her husband as a couple in service, cleaning bathrooms and furtively picking flowers from the master's garden. Barbara goes on to become a successful actress, but she loses her family, and her country, in one tragedy after another. Annie simply disappears from a mental hospital, although Barbara tries to track her through a series of psychics, and Jilly dies of a cancer for which her Christian Science religion offered no palliative. Daddy dies when the last of his secret supply of drink is gone, and Mummy/Miss McKirdy dies of old age. Replete with compelling detail, this is a story of the magnetism of South Africa, of a troubled but tightly knit family, and of a woman who graduated from self-absorption to self-awareness in the swirling world of the theater.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: St. Martin's