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An Unresolved Mother-Daughter Relationship
on 23 April 2014
The Girl from Station X, the story of a fraught mother-daughter relationship is a brave book, if at times a sad one that is difficult to read.
Elisa Segrave's troubled relationship with her mother came to a head when Elisa's marriage broke down, she had two young children to care for and she got breast cancer. Her mother Anne wasn't there for her at this crucial time and as her mother declined further into dementia, the author found that she could no longer deal with her unreasonable behaviour.
In the process of clearing out her mother's home while she was still alive, Elisa found a collection of Anne's diaries written from the age of 15 until her early 40s. Through the diaries, Elisa sees a whole new side to her mother and one that she comes to admire, particularly her distinguished work during the war years.
Anne is a wonderful diarist and her frank account of her time at Bletchley Park (the 'Station X') of the title makes for fascinating reading. So too does her honesty about the ups and downs of working in such a place, working with eccentrics and that despite the importance and responsibility of her work, at times, it probably was boring and even a bit depressing.
The flow of the diaries is interrupted though by the author's own reaction to what has been written and although that can be a useful device if it's done for explanatory reasons, here it becomes intrusive and too much like a troubled daughter's therapy session. This was the only time in the whole book that Anne's voice could be heard yet every time she lets rip, there is the author analysing and commenting upon what's been written – even if it is merely a youthful outburst in what was, after all, a private diary.
The story of her mother's life is told solely from Elisa's point of view and there is no advocate for Anne, giving her side of the story. Elisa has proof from her mother's diary that she was indeed loved by Anne in her early childhood, until her brother Raymond climbed the fence and drowned in his grandmother's swimming pool. 'My mother was only forty-two when I, my father and my two remaining brothers lost her – to grief.'
It seems sad to me that Anne bears the brunt of her daughter's resentment as the family dysfunction seems to run deeper than one generation and Anne herself might not have been given enough maternal love and affection.
After reading the diaries and understanding the terrible circumstances that Anne faced after losing not just one but two sons to early deaths, Anne is still not able to atone herself for her perceived sins and the longed for redemption and resolution between mother and daughter sadly never happens.
This review was first published at lambertnagle.com