Learning to Scream
Digital version – browse, print or download
Receive the latest news & reviews direct to your inbox!
This issue’s cover features Ally Kennen and her latest book, Quarry. Ally Kennen is interviewed by Julia Eccleshare. Thanks to Marion Lloyd Books for their help with this January cover.
By clicking here you can view, print or download the fully artworked Digital Edition of BfK 186 January 2011
‘Can you get Tippex for thoughts? And for feelings? Someone ought to invent it.’ A prize-winner in the author’s native Germany, this young adult novel in translation is the stark story of a young girl who is being sexually abused by her grandfather. Malvina is rising 14 and increasingly at loggerheads with her parents and sister. An abandoned villa takes on the role of comfort zone, from which she and her best friend Lizzy spend the whole summer waging war on a group of boys from the nearby estate. By the following Easter, however, Lizzy has gone away, and Malvina’s feelings for one boy in particular are changing. But she cannot begin to imagine trusting him with the dark secret of what her Granddad does to her when they are alone. Somehow she needs to find the courage to tell it: and loudly.
This is a dark tale indeed; not only in terms of Malvina’s abuse at the hands of her grandfather, but in the extent to which she is failed by the adults around her. Wrapped up in their own concerns, her parents show a tragic lack of insight and awareness, leaving their daughter ensnared in a web of emotional blackmail she cannot escape, particularly after the death of her grandmother. And even she has been horrifically complicit in the abuse during her final illness. Only her grandfather’s neighbour, the eccentric Mrs Bitschek, has a notion of what is going on and tries to save Malvina. It is the boy, Screwy, and Lizzy who finally give her the courage to scream.
Malvina’s 13-year-old voice is convincingly conveyed by both writing and translation here, and her grim story is lifted above the ‘misery’ dimension by the author’s light and occasionally even lyrical touch.