Her own childish impressions and thoughts are interspersed with those of her imaginary friends and with long quotations from her chosen novels. It is difficult to keep up at times, but the blend of fictional and real voices forces the reader to question the reality of Bayley’s childhood self and experience its slipperiness. Events are hazy but she finally escapes from her brutal, chaotic home by putting herself into the hands of doctors and social workers. Her author biography tells us that she is the first person brought up in the Sussex County Council care system ever to go to university.
The book is beautifully written and if you can ignore the explosion of questions it detonates in your mind at every turn and just let its poetic rhythms lap over you and wear you into a slightly different shape from the one in which you began, that is probably the best way. But it left me longing for more of Bayley’s recollections from a place of relative tranquillity, a greater twist of the kaleidoscope to bring those fragments of childhood into a more distinguishable pattern. Facts can provide a vital torque.