For some reason (and I'm not completely sure why) I have quite a large collection of books by Monica Dickens on my shelves. All of them old Penguin copies with orange spines. I've no idea what prompted me to buy them all, but I do seem to recall having had them for a while. In comparison with today's books they are nice and thin though which means that when I've been looking for something physically light to read I've been drawn towards this part of the shelf. For those of you not aware Monica Dickens is the great-grandaughter of Charles Dickens and obviously seems to have inherited some of his writing talent.
The first that I picked up was Kate and Emma a tale of two young women who are unexpectedly brought together despite their very different backgrounds. Emma is a magistrate's daughter who happens to sit in as her father is dealing with child cruelty cases one day in juvenile court. Up in front of the magistrate is Kate, a young woman whose mother prefers her other children. Despite this chance first meeting the two strike up an unlikely friendship which sees Emma become a career woman travelling to America with work, and Kate thrown into a life of poverty with an expanding brood of children.
The book is incredibly dark in places, but the skill in Dickens' writing really draws the reader into the girls' circumstances as they grow up. The way in which a person's circumstances can really dictate how things pan out for them becomes very clear as the book progresses.
Emma's loyalty towards her friend Kate is really put to the test when Kate appears again in front of Emma's father, but this time accused of abusing her own children. I certainly wouldn't describe this book as a "pleasant" read, but definitely one that I enjoyed and one which I'm glad I did read.
Now to crack on with the rest of my Monica Dickens shelf before Baby C arrives to put a halt to my reading habit!