The Girl on the Wall: One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott
|The Girl on the Wall: One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An autobiography first produced as a counted thread embroidery and then told as a story. With an easy conversational tone it's great reading for young and old alike.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: February 2010|
|Publisher: Icon Books|
Jean Baggott is now seventy two and in the final year of her history degree at Warwick University. After almost a lifetime of bending her life to the needs of other people she has decided that now is the time to look after herself – the eleven year old girl whose picture hangs on her wall. She plans to achieve what that girl would want her to achieve and from this she's found great fulfilment.
At the age of seven that girl whose picture hangs on the wall was given a needle threaded with pink cotton. The possibilities were obvious to Jean and she became an accomplished needlewoman, mastering dressmaking and embroidery. In a moment of inspiration she brought together her love of history and her abilities as an embroiderer and produced a counted-thread picture of her life. This is, if you like, the book of the picture. It's only incidentally about the stitching but a chapter is devoted to each of the seventy three circles in the picture and Jean tells us her own story and sets it within the wider context of world and national affairs.
Those with an interest in embroidery will see the skill which was required to produce the picture, which measures 112cm by 41cm. It was worked on evenweave linen which has thirty two threads per inch and as the largest stitch would only go across two threads and many over only one you'll understand the complexity of the picture. Have a look at the book cover and you'll see what I mean. There's a fold-out picture of the full tapestry at the back of the book and each chapter begins with a life-size picture of a circle.
Jean also has considerable skills as a raconteur. I could describe her as a social historian, but that would make her writing sound dry and of only academic interest. She tells her own story from her wartime childhood in the Black Country through to the noughties. There's stories of a way of life which is fast-fading from memories set in the context of wider events. Each chapter is short – some only a page or two and I'll happily admit that for quite a few evenings I happily succumbed to the temptation of reading just one more chapter, or two.
The book brought back memories for me but this isn't just a book of nostalgia for the older generations – it's a book which will be enjoyed by all ages for the stories and the beauty of the tapestry.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a cop to the Bookbag.
It's very difficult to think of another book which is anything like The Girl on the Wall but if this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws by Margaret Drabble.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl on the Wall: One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl on the Wall: One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.