It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour She, You, I by Sally Keeble
About the Author
Sally writes about the things she’s passionate about—the triumphs and tragedies of people’s everyday lives. It’s what originally took her into journalism and then politics, and keeps her active there still.
Growing up in a diplomatic family, she spent much of her early years in the USA, Switzerland and Australia, returning home to the UK after working as a journalist in South Africa. She made the switch from journalism to politics, first as a South London council leader during the turbulent 1980s and then as one of the big intake of Labour women MPs who changed the face of British politics in 1997. She became a minister in local government and then international development.
Itchy feet don’t stand still. After losing her seat, she set up an international development agency for the Anglican Communion, and travelled widely, especially in Africa and South Asia. She’s written nonfiction previously, especially on women’s issues and social policy, but “She, You, I” is her first novel. To learn about creative writing, she did courses with City Lit and Jericho Writers, and has had pieces of flash fiction shortlisted in competitions.
Some of the storylines in “She, You, I” draw from insights gained from her personal and political life. Sally splits her time between Northampton, where she was MP, and Bawdsey, a village in coastal Suffolk close to her family roots. She and her husband Andrew have two adult children. Follow @Sally_Keeble on Twitter
About the book
When Skye Stanhope returns to her grandmother’s childhood home, she’s looking for the roots of her life story. Why her tough-minded granny Maisie ran away to war. And why her brilliant mother Isla died. Her search for the truth stretches across almost a century of conflict, peace, boomtime and bust, into the uneasy calm of post pandemic Britain.
“She, You, I” is the debut novel of Sally Keeble, a former journalist and MP. She has written non-fiction previously, focussing on social and feminist issues, and many of these themes run through her novel.
For Maisie, signing up to fight in the second world war provides a way to escape poverty and violence at home. But she finds herself caught up in new tragedy, and her unresolved grief is played out in the lives of her own daughters. It’s only in the third generation that her granddaughter Skye is able to heal the wounds. Woven through the women’s lives is Hsiao Ling, a seamstress whose ancestor disappeared in wartime France.
It’s an emotional journey, from a Scottish tenement to an airbase in wartime Suffolk, through London’s fashion and finance industries, to a coffee cart by the south coast. Through each woman’s story, “She, You, I” holds up a mirror to the complexity of family relationships and answers the question, How many generations does it take to recover from abuse.
For the author, “She, You, I” is a chance to explore in fiction some of the issues that she campaigned on during her time in politics. It shows how women’s lives have changed, and the challenges we’ve faced. It also tells a story of hope and reconciliation that aims to make readers laugh as well as cry.
I have to admit it wasn’t what I expected or presumed it would be, which was a story about women, their loves, their children and grandchildren. A Catherine Cookson with plenty of upheaval and a fulfilling ending to the heartbreak and sorrow. Not that it wouldn’t have been a good read, but this is so much more.
The author picks apart the generational trauma that simmers quietly underneath and becomes evident in different ways, as the torch is passed through the decades and the changes in the world. How the love between mother and daughter can be both an unbreakable twine that defines their relationship, and simultaneously be a precarious string burdened by guilt, anger and disbelief.
Also the way these emotions and trauma are passed on via the relationships, despite younger generations being unaware of said burden. The experiences of a child with their parent/s define the person they become and how they navigate their own lives, expectations and relationships moving forward.
I enjoyed the lack of drama, the way each era and daughter is written as their own scene and story almost. A staccato experience of chapters – Kodak moments of personalities and key moments or events. The author has captured the nuances and complexities with a brusque accuracy and also the often forgotten element of six degrees of separation.
I really enjoyed it. I think it spoke to me because it didn’t focus on the reason for the destruction and cause of the trauma, but rather on the denial, coping mechanisms, and the way women have been taught to make do with the cards we are dealt. You made your bed, now you must lay in it. As the women in the family move beyond that mentality the strength and determination lets them create their intended path. Blood and family doesn’t mean loyalty and blind acceptance, especially if doing so means your own downfall.