Eat. Sleep. Rage. Repeat.
Published by: Gomer@Lolfa
270 Pages, 4.65 x 6.95 in
- Published: 08/2021
There is a well-known principle in fiction-writing: ‘Put your hero/heroine up a tree and throw stones at them until they find a way to get down.’ Rebecca Roberts certainly follows this principle – with a thorny tree and a hail of half-bricks.
Caitlin Bennett has had a nightmare upbringing, but she has survived to qualify as a B.Ed. and has returned to teach Welsh in her former local school. This is partly through loyalty to her admirable mentor and deputy head, Mrs Court, and partly through an empathy with children who have homes like her own. However, the treatment she gets from pupils, especially her GCSE class, is so abusive, rude and threatening that her anger finally escapes in some ‘inappropriate’ language. For this she is unfairly punished by the vicious, misogynistic headmaster – the first of a long series of injustices that she has to suffer.
The positive thread through Caitlin’s life has been the love between her and her younger sister Danielle. Dani also suffered from their parents’ neglect but not from the violence visited on Caitlin. The scenes between the sisters are full of very lively and often humorous observation. The overwhelming priority in Caitlin’s life has been to look after Dani, and this comes at considerable cost. The character of their mother is well-drawn – at once pitiable and destructive, but with hints of what she might have been or might become.
Caitlin is the narrator, so we are given her view of her persecutors but, in her father’s case, his actions bear this out and, in the case of the headmaster, it is clear that he mistreats all his female staff.
The third word in the title – rage – is a running theme throughout the book. Caitlin’s feelings of anger, the anger-management advice she is given, and her own struggles to master her emotions are clearly described. She has to master her anger to do and retain her job. (Whether teachers should be expected to take vile abuse from a pack of teenagers with calm and patience is a question that goes far beyond the novel.) Caitlin certainly retains the reader’s sympathy for her indomitable spirit.
Rebecca Roberts is a translator and author of novels in Welsh. Her first, Mudferwi, also follows a young woman through adverse circumstances and prejudice, perhaps less extreme than Caitlin’s. Roberts clearly has a talent for depicting strong characters battling life’s injustices and emerging ‘bloody but unbowed’. ~Caroline Clark @ www.gwales.com
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