Grace and Mary

Melvyn Bragg

Grace and Mary

John visits his ageing mother Mary in her nursing home by the sea, and mourns the slow fading of her mind. Hoping to shore up her memory, he prompts her with songs, photographs and questions about the 1940s, when she was a young woman and he a child in a small Cumbrian town. But he finds that most of all it is her own mother she longs for - Grace, the mother she barely knew. John sets out to recreate their buried family history, delving into the secrets and silences of Mary's fractured childhood as he imagines the life of her spirited mother. Reaching from the late 19th century to the present, this becomes a deeply moving, reflective elegy on three generations linked by a chain of love, loss, and courage. 3.6 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
Grace and Mary

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 256
RRP
Date of Publication May 2013
ISBN 978-1444762341
Publisher Sceptre
 

John visits his ageing mother Mary in her nursing home by the sea, and mourns the slow fading of her mind. Hoping to shore up her memory, he prompts her with songs, photographs and questions about the 1940s, when she was a young woman and he a child in a small Cumbrian town. But he finds that most of all it is her own mother she longs for - Grace, the mother she barely knew. John sets out to recreate their buried family history, delving into the secrets and silences of Mary's fractured childhood as he imagines the life of her spirited mother. Reaching from the late 19th century to the present, this becomes a deeply moving, reflective elegy on three generations linked by a chain of love, loss, and courage.

Reviews

The Scotsman

Allan Massie

The pleasures of this elegant novel are many. Bragg’s detailed evocation of the Wigton of his youth, the people that lived there, the beauty of the Cumbrian scenery, the lively sense of the region’s long and varied history, is delightful. It’s a novel that deserves to be read slowly, the details cherished.

27/04/2013

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The Observer

Alex Preston

Bragg's In Our Time day job casts its shadow across Grace and Mary. Research – whether on the workings of the brain, Wordsworth, or Wycliffe's Bible – is unfurled as if before an audience. John's narrative is sometimes painfully interrogative – the rhetorical questions come with bludgeoning regularity, often in thick clusters, until we feel like an In Our Time guest who has strayed too far from the programme's subject. Even the prose style seems to have the incantatory beat of Bragg's mellifluous radio spiel, with descriptions rendered in rhythmic encyclopaedic lists. I'd read glowing reviews of Bragg's previous novels and written them off as mere toadying to his eminent Lordship, but there is some fine prose here.

19/05/2013

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The Evening Standard

Jane Shilling

The emotional freight of loss and longing should have been a rich seam. In the novel’s closing pages, where something — relief that the end is in sight, perhaps — loosens Bragg’s tense grip on his narrative, there is an intimation of what his novel might have been if he had allowed himself to tell his story in terms of character or emotion. But he doesn’t. Until that very late point, his narrative voice stands in his story’s light — describing, interpreting, interrupting with sententious obiter dicta at inopportune moments.

02/05/2013

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The Sunday Times

David Grylls

If this novel has a weakness, it is that John’s account of his grandmother’s life is far too detailed to function ­plausibly as an aid to his ­Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother, who would simply not take it in. Its strength is its subtle demonstration of historical contrasts and continuities. For example, mirroring his religious ancestors struggling to accept God’s will, John is a contemporary sceptic unsatisfied with total materialism. In their hunger for fundamental meanings, Victorians and moderns join hands.

12/05/2013

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The Times

Matthew Dennision

The bedbound figure engaged in looking back is a standard literary device and has elsewhere been handled more effectively by other novelists: the twin strands of Bragg’s narrative never fully connect. Instead Grace and Mary remains a largely unresolved pairing of two would-be novels: the story of Grace’s life and a different story about the end of Mary’s life ... Grace and Mary ultimately fails to satisfy as a literary construct and is sluggish in setting its story on its course, but it includes passages that are both moving and compelling and there is ample evidence of Bragg’s gifts as a storyteller.

04/05/2013

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