A Family at War, comments by Mary E. Latela, September 2, 2015
@BerylKingston triumphs with A Family at War, the story of her own growing up through the WWII years in G.B. with her family. It takes courage to share the “family secrets,” and I was moved and inspired to read Beryl’s story, because it needs to be told. It is not only her story, but the story of so many other women. Her mother’s unpredictable personality swings, violent outbursts, and continuous canings were terrible, but even more damaging was her mantra that her daughter was “vicious, jealous, should never have been born.” These are words which are not forgotten, no matter the length of one’s life.
In spite of the chaotic state of “internal affairs,” including Gran who really wants to help but is prevented, a father who is unwilling to stand up for himself or the children, a spoiled younger sister, and a little reluctantly adopted sister whom Beryl nurtures and cares for, mostly by herself.
As a gifted student during the WWII attacks in G.B., Beryl’s studies are often interrupted with air raids, bombings, hiding, sleeplessness, and long, tiring treks to London (starting as a nine year old) to buy the rationed groceries. Her achievements are ignored or denied by Mum. Her attempts to try to prevent the vicious fighting between parents causes her to learn well the lesson that the family secrets are never to be shared.
I know that Beryl Kingston’s spouse, Roy, recently died, and he must have been a most wonderful partner, husband, father, and researcher. “The love of her life” empowered her to continue to write magnificently to this day. I have more of her novels to read, and I cherish each moment spent reading them, except for Family at War, because she has become a literary friend, and I am so sad for her, and so relieved that others who have struggled will recognize the story.
This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand “family,” who is devoted to Beryl and her fine novels, and to those who trust that the world can be mended by speaking out the truth instead of keeping secrets. I cherish this story, but more the storyteller herself.