Publication Date: 9th July 2020
When I found out that Lisa Blower had a new novel coming out I was absolutely thrilled. I have a special place in my heart for her short story collection It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s, which I reviewed here. I absolutely adored this collection which is dripping with nostalgia and northern heart. Being a northern girl myself I found I identified with the characters in this collection so fiercely. Anyway……we’re not here to talk about that book (you should buy it and read it though!).
I’m here today to talk about Pond Weed.
Pond Weed tells the story of Selwyn and Ginny a couple in their late sixties/early seventies who met early in life when they were neighbours then parted ways until they were much older and came back into each other’s lives again.
Selwyn is a pond supplies salesman with an absolute love bordering on obsession for ponds and pond plant life and the story opens with him arriving home towing the Toogood Aquatics exhibition caravan and telling Ginny to get into the car. He is apparently taking her on an impromptu holiday to wales…..
Ginny is understandably reticent and wants a better explanation from Selwyn, however he is adamant they are going so she reluctantly agrees.
What follows is not only a road trip to their ultimate destination, it is a nostalgic, tough, emotional trip through their past.
This couple were briefly together in their youth but having parted ways for so many years they have huge chunks of each other’s lives missing. This forms cracks for jealousy and recriminations to seep in. Do they really know each other? Can they base their relationship on what they knew of each other before and what does this mean for their future.
There are various stops along the journey where Selwyn gets to indulge his passion for ponds and Ginny is quite literally along for the ride. They meet various people, some from Selwyn’s past and Ginny has to fathom what they mean to him.
Whilst tripping down the B roads across the country, Ginny and Selwyn have to do some soul searching and delve into their shared past in order to look forward into their future.
Along the way we learn of Ginny’s childhood and get to know her mother Meg who is a butcher and for me was such a fascinating character not least due to this description of her:
There is no species to define my mother. Meg was one of a kind. A six-foot chump with size ten feet and a heart of twenty four carat gold – as a child, she told me she could touch the sky and pull down the clouds, and that’s what made cotton wool. As for the rest of her, a natural fatness over elephant bones which she swathed in black smocks and blood-stained aprons; it was all hidden and folded away. She smelt of boot polish, of animal blood and tar, but on Sundays, of perfume – two or three squirts from an expensive bottle of something she would travel to Manchester to buy. Her hair was kept swimming-cap short and wispy about her ears, and when kids called her a man I thumped them…..
I mean come on! That description alone had me hooked. Ginny’s mother is a complex woman with issues of her own and I just loved it when we travelled back in time through Ginny’s memories of her childhood to meet Meg and the mysterious Bluebird (I’ll leave you to discover who this is for yourself).
Going forward in time we also get snapshots of Ginny’s relationship with her daughter. Which isn’t always the most comfortable or easy flowing.
This book is filled with human emotion, ram jam full of heart and humour. Lisa Blower is the kind of writer who can take you by the heart and lead your through the complex and often heartbreaking lives of ordinary folk. People we can identify with ourselves or see parts of our own treasured family members in. I found myself willing Selwyn and Ginny on in their tangled relationship and was genuinely gutted when I finished the book and felt like I had left my friends behind.
It was an absolute pleasure to go on their road trip with them and so refreshing to follow the relationship of characters later on in life.
I will always read everything that Lisa Blower writes. I think she is an extraordinarily talented writer and Pondweed is now nestled in my heart right next to It’s Gone Dark Over Bills Mother’s.
Thank you so much as always to Emma Dowson for sending me my review copy and extra special thanks for including a quote from my Its Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s review in the finished hardback edition of Pond Weed I will treasure it on the forever shelf.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx