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June 04 , 2010

Out of Essex


These are the stories of sisters growing up in south Essex in the sixties and seventies.  One (Mary) stayed home and brought up babies whilst the other (Alex) took the hippie trail east and brought back her man from Pakistan, a marsh Arab, Pitsea marshes that is.  Later they reversed positions, one moving lock, stock and barrel for a new life in France, the other finally grounded in Canvey.

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Mary’s abundant fertility results in a brood of five daughters, all conceived using the rhythm method.  Alex’s fertility is all in her green fingers.  She yearns for a baby, and Mary makes an extraordinary offer of help.  A child is born – another girl – fathered by Alex’s husband.

After the birth Mary makes for France with her own errant husband just released from prison, five daughters and a big black dog.  Alex stays in Canvey to grow her plant nursery and nurture her own daughter.

A spoof diary introduces twelve chapters.  This book within the book, with its combination of horticultural Latin, robust Anglo-Saxon, smutty humour and reference to real-life events, causes grief between the sisters.  Sisterhood is stretched to breaking point as misunderstandings arise.

Mary and Alex are both witty and wise, mostly.  When Mary’s doubt in her own abilities combines with Alex’s belief in her own infallibility both can come a cropper.  The best laid plans of mice and women often go awry.  Smartness and sympathy see them through to success in the search for a good life and the creation of new life.

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