Map of Blue Book Balloon

19 April 2022

#Review - Kezia and Rosie by Rebecca Burns

Kezia and Rosie
Rebecca Burns
Dahlia Publishing, 26 March 2022
Available as: PB, 128pp
Source: Advance e-copy
ISBN: 9781913624095

I'm grateful to the author for an advance e-copy of Kezia and Rosie to consider for review.

This is a collection of stories which, while being self-contained in their explorations of a moment or an event, link to tell us about the lives of Kezia (8) and Rosie (6),  two young girls staying with their grandparents in the summer of 1986 while their mum is elsewhere. They, especially Rosie, from whose point of view the stories are told, worry about her absence - less about their dad's absence. The reader will see that there is some trouble there. Rosie is also conscious of that, but is focussed very much on the here and now.

Rebecca Burns is very good at developing this split perspective, showing the significant events that matter to Rosie (the forbidden delights of browsing the adult shelves in the library, receiving birthday presents, the weekly routines of life with her grandparents from "Final Score" to swinging on the garden gate) but also her interest in what the grown-ups are doing: overheard conversations and telephone calls 'when the girls were supposed to be asleep', looks between adults, things that don't fit. Both of these have a significance that Kezia ponders. As an eight year old ('Kezia is thrilled too bit it's important not to show it. She's almost eight, and that's too old to be excited by chips') she's interested in limits and boundaries - what is allowed and what is forbidden, what the consequences are of crossing a line, and whether or not it will be discovered. She notes when others cross lines - the unheard-of occasion when her normally demure grandmother swears, for example 

As the elder child, Kezia is also very conscious of her position with regards to Rosie, and the need to keep her in order. But she's also very concerned - Rosie's arm was hurt and causes her pain.

For me, the book beautifully portrays childhood in a certain time and place - pre Internet and media saturation, a telephone call a significant and probably expensive event, the smell of Savlon, mint sauce, cream from the top of the milk... I grew up in the 70s, a little earlier than this, but that same side of that divide and the atmosphere and detail ring very true to me. So  does the sense of wonder and fear that Kezia shows, experiencing so much for the first time, trying to join it all all up, feeling elated at one moment one she works something out, terrified another for the most unaccountable (to an adult) of reasons. 

And while the narrative is driven by those vivid childhood highlights - escaped ferrets from the garden next door and the exaggerated gusto with which the adults join in the pleasing terror, the boredom staying indoors during a rainy spell, loss of a favourite toy - there's always the wider picture in the background, a sense of uncertainty over the future, disruption to little lives, the fact that Grandad and Grandma are clearly worried. Kezia feels an anger, and 'something within her is praying for words that will make sense of this summer'.

It's a gem of a book, both sad in what we glimpse of the wider background and also comforting in its focus on loving relationships and on finding a way through. A great read, and a book I'd strongly recommend.

For more information about Kezia and Rosie and to order a copy, see the publisher's website here and the author's website here

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