GRAN AT COALGATE by Winifred Cawley


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Not the most fetching title of the year and getting used to the close-print Northcountry conversation takes some stick-to-it-iveness. ""Anyroad,"" once started there'll be no putting this down for Jinnie, who's been brought up Chapel to believe that just about everything is a SIN for which one must PAY, makes the ordinary enough 1920's mining town of Coalgate seem deliciously wicked. Even going out for fish and chips is a sensuous treat (the fish ""exploded to twice its size in a great fleece of batter, then bobbed exuberantly up and down, well aware of its own importance"") and, imagine, Cousin Nan even takes her to the Royal cinema to see Felix the Cat (""Fee-lix kept on walking. . . "") and Buster Keaton and smokes a tab right there at her seat. And the church social turns out to be an actual dance--it must be All Right because the vicar pops in, but Jinnie fears she'll never get used to the whole routine of ""being Chosen and not being Chosen."" Soon enough, Jinnie comes to realize that Gran's family has one member who shocks even the town flapper, Betsey--brassy voiced Aunt Polly (No Better Than She Should Be) whose gadding about town with the pit-man, Tot, infuriates her son Will and who ends up near-murdered on the night after the dance. Just what happened to Polly is left ambiguous--as are other grown-up matters, like the coming strike--but everything Jinnie sees and does on her two-week visit is set down in vibrating detail. One of those timidly begun holidays on which nothing, yet everything, happens. . . to delight the especially attentive reader. Winner of the 1974 Guardian book award.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1975
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston