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Where the Apple Ripens by Jessie Kesson

Where the Apple Ripens

by Jessie Kesson

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Jessie Kesson has written a group of short stories about a Scotland on the brink of change. Her characters are, for the most part, young and resilient as they deal with the realities of being poor in the Scottish countryside. Song and poetry run through these stories. Girls sing snatches of folk ballads to echo their feelings of love and longing, for these little fictions are mainly about girls and women alive with the dreams of youth and stoic in old age.

The longest story set in 1932 , "Where the Apple Ripens," follows 18 year old Helen as she prepares to leave home to be a domestic in a large town. The reader gets the feeling that Helen, on the brink of adulthood, will never be as carefree as she is now looking forward to her new work and being excited about broadening her horizons. For her village seems almost caught in a time-warp as though the modern world has passed it by and the realities of the twentieth century are going to be an unwelcome intrusion.

The most powerful story, "The Gowk", has a retarded young man hounded into an asylum when he is accused of raping the brightest girl in the village and getting her pregnant. Liz's life changes because she has to give up her dream of going to university. While her parents and the village rally around her and help her through the crisis, the Gowk is safely locked away . Prayers are offered that the child will be normal. Only Liz know that her baby will indeed be normal and only the Gowk's father knows that his son could never impregnate a woman. And he seeks his revenge...

Other stories cover the indignities of even good nursing homes, the diminishing of the natives as city dwellers buy the cottages and gentrify the area; and the passing of a way of life. Kesson's stories are not a romantic look at Scotland; they are realistic and harsh. If there is not much hope, there is a respect for the strength of the villagers who endure their hard lives and face the future with no complaints. It is a very honest look at a recent era gone forever. Whether that is good or bad is left to the reader to determine. ( )
3 vote Liz1564 | Dec 27, 2010 |
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For Sharon, Melanie and Joanne
Dear Grandchildren
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Never pry
Lest we lose our Eden
Adam - and I -

'On 29 August, 1932. Helen. Aged eighteen years ...' Her mother's voice drifted to a halt. And Isabel knew it was true. Everything became true when it was read out loud, from the morning paper.
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In these shimmering, original stories Jessie Kesson evokes the vulnerability and promise of childhood and adolescence and the uncertainty of adulthood, and conjures up both the charm and the dourness of the Scottish countryside. With rare understanding she depicts those who haunt the fringes of society - the old, the homeless, the orphaned and the lonely - and captures each in transitional moments of awareness.
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