Yvonne Roberts' third novel, A History of Insects
, is a compelling, and painful, vision of childhood. It's 1956, in Peshawar, Pakistan, a city torn between Muslim and Sikh, Christian and the British Raj. Ella Jackson, child of the colonial administration, lives out a lonely life on the fringes of an adult world riven with political, racial and sexual conflict: "Eye to the crack in the door, she could see most of the brightly lit room. A grown-up, blindfolded and wearing a party dress, was crawling around on her hands and knees, one arm outstretched, squeaking." From its opening pages, the strangeness of grown-up behaviour, the young girl's struggle to make sense of what she sees around her, drives Roberts' novel. This is a story with a secret, one that belongs to a child but also to a community desperate not to acknowledge that it is built on something rotten, something that perverts the relations between ruler and ruled, husband and wife, adult and child.
Central to Roberts' exploration of what is wrong in Peshawar is the (often vicious) relation between Ella and her mother, Alice. "I hate Mummy. I wish she were dead": a child's loneliness, her bitterness at a world full of broken promises, finds expression on the opening page of her exercise book. Discovered by a servant, handed over to Alice, those lines represent one of the moments of anger and danger between mother and daughter that begins to teach Ella the value of concealment. It's a secrecy symbolised by the title she gives to her new journal--"A History of Insects by Ella Jackson, aged nine and five months"--and one that compels this novel towards its disturbing, and ambiguous, conclusion. --Vicky Lebeau
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
For previous novels 'Provocative, entertaining ... delightfully funny novel' Daily Express 'A thoughtful and witty first novel' Daily Telegraph 'Both an entertaining satire on contemporary sexual mores ... and a touching portrait of a woman's search for self-respect' Vogue 'Yvonne Roberts is a natural. She's wonderful; the wittiest, most inventive novelette writer in ages' Image Magazine for HISTORY pb 'A HISTORY OF INSECTS is pure magic' Bookseller 'This novel is better than most because the author draws on her own colonial childhood in Pakistan, and the dialogue, food and manners seem absolutely authentic' Daily Mail 'Roberts picks her way through the cultural and psychological minefields of the plot with impressive grace' The Times 'A story of great charm... [Roberts] brilliantly evokes a country fractured not only by swelling anti-British sentiment but by religious conflict' Sunday Times 'Reminiscent of Behind the Scenes at the Museum. The writing is sensitive and intelligent, but the plot is so well constucted that it hooks the reader from the very first page. Engrossing' Yorkshire Post 'A memorable vision of the remnants of the British Raj caught on the cusp of change in Pakistan in 1956 as the backdrop...a masterful conclusion that marks this out as a must read' The Scotsman 'An engaging story' The Good Book guide 'An illuminating and evocative account of the loss of innocence' Western Mail Cardiff "Brilliently evokes a country fractured not only by swelling anti-British sentiment but by religious conflict' The Sunday Times 'Brilliently and poignantly evoked' Woman & Home 'Intelligent, involving novel' The Scotsman