Flightsend by Linda Newbery

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Flightsend by Linda Newbery

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A lyrical and confident novel of grief, self discovery and moving on. Beautifully written, with resonance for all children trying to grow up and make sense of difficult emotions.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: April 2008
Publisher: David Fickling Books
ISBN: 0385614071

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Everything went wrong so suddenly. One moment part of a happy family - herself, her mother Kathy, Kathy's boyfriend Sean and the much-wanted baby-to-be Rose - the next bereft of it all, Charlie is wondering just what else can go wrong. Kathy lost the baby. She ended things with Sean. She gave up her teaching job. She became withdrawn and depressed, suffered a breakdown. And now, beginning to emerge at the other end of a very dark tunnel, Kathy has decided to make a fresh start at Flightsend.

A beautiful cottage Flightsend might be, but to Charlie it might as well be on the other side of the world. A long bus ride from her school, miles from her friends, another step away from the hoped-for reconciliation with Sean - Flightsend to Charlie is one more enforced estrangement from her old life. She understands her mother's grief and need to start anew, but she feels forgotten in it all. She doesn't feel like mature, coping Charlie, the rock upon whom her mother leans. She feels a little bit lost, a little bit alone, and more than a little bit neglected.

But Flightsend proves to be more than a step on a cold-hearted path to divorce from the past. It proves to be a turning point not only for Kathy, but for Charlie too. It turns out to be a summer of discovery.

There's a simplicity to Flightsend that belies its quality. Not that much really happens - it's just the story of a summer in which a mother and daughter each find ways to heal after a family tragedy. The dramatic conflicts are of the kitchen sink variety and will be recognisable to all readers - Charlie must learn to accept that her mother is a fallible human being and Kathy must forge a new life for herself despite her crushing grief for her dead child. Mother and daughter bicker around these pivotal issues just as mothers and daughters up and down the land bicker around the real issues facing them. In loving relationships, it truly is often a better way. Facing difficult emotions head on can sometimes cause more damage than it repairs. Charlie and Kathy argue about the little things because they can't bring themselves to argue about the big things. But because they love one another, the release of these minor safety valves tides them over until time heals the rest.

It's a lovely book - wise, kind, understanding and gentle. It doesn't shy away from difficult issues, but it does present them in a way that shows pain is a part of life. Without pain, how would we know joy when we find it? It's beautifully written, in crisp but lyrical prose, and it taps into the adolescent pysche with broad but sure strokes. Every character, no matter how minor, is fully-fleshed and lots of coming-of-age themes underly the main narrative thread. I absolutely loved it, but if I were a teenager, I'd have loved it even more.

It's a classy book from a classy writer and it's highly recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at David Fickling for sending the book.

Jacqueline Wilson's The Illustrated Mum also talks about living with a mother whose mental health has taken a toll on her family. Slightly older readers will enjoy Quarter Past Two On A Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery.

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