My Real Children
Jo Walton

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.

My Real Children book cover

A hauntingly powerful and very evocative novel, this kept me awake until I’d finished it. It was very sad, on one level, seeing how different Pat’s lives could have been, but so poignant and eloquently written that I almost felt as if I was reading something very sacrosanct and personal and private. The relationships depicted were solid and powerful, the glimpses of teens through to the very elderly excellent in their execution and each element – from Pat’s father at the seaside, to her naivety at college, her complete subservience to her husband, her love of art and literature, her kids and grandchildren, her mother: each of these added nuanced layers to the work, and my head is still full of two of her lives and at the moment very little of my own.

Highly recommended.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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