Marilyn and Me by Shanta Everington

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Marilyn and Me by Shanta Everington

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Marilyn is 25 and learning disabled. This is the story of how she clawed her way back after a vicious attack - and of how little help we give people like Marilyn.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Cinnamon Press
ISBN: 978-1905614172

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Her mother brought the newspapers to the hospital but the picture had been taken before she changed her name to Marilyn, before she bleached her hair and long before she was attacked on Christmas Eve at a bus stop and left for dead. In the picture she was Jane with mousey hair and big glasses.

Marilyn named herself after Marilyn Monroe and in her locker at the day centre she has the iconic picture of her in the white dress being blown high. Marilyn wants to be like her heroine: pretty and happy and normal, but she's twenty five years old and has a learning disability. Just living on her own (with the help of Sharon, her key worker, Rose, her social worker and Natasha, her support worker) is a major achievement and one that's going to be put in jeopardy by the attack.

In Marilyn and Me Shanta Everington tells Marilyn's story in her own words, perfectly capturing the way that Marilyn observes and understands far more than most people think - including those who are meant to be looking after her interests. She shows how she's taken advantage of and how little consideration people give her, how she's meant to be an adult capable of making her own choices but is manipulated by those around her 'for her own benefit'.

I cried for Marilyn as she slowly and painfully clawed her way back after the attack, despite the constant reminders. She has to leave her own flat and live with her mother and Steve, her mother's boyfriend, who treats her with callous disregard. Her mother turns to drink as a way of forgetting Steve's violence. Marilyn expected little of her - her mother had given her up at birth and done little to support her daughter in the meantime - and wasn't disappointed.

Marilyn is one of those characters who stay with you long after the book is finished. I wept for her as she confused sex with love and hoped for the baby that people doubted she would be able to care for. I wept for how she was let down, used and then discarded by her 'boyfriends', by her mother and by those who should be caring for her interests. I was angered when those who used her had lower standards than Marilyn herself, but thought themselves above her.

Do read this book - it's relatively short, but a real eye-opener. It might be about Marilyn but she stands for all those in society who are less able for one reason or another and who are treated as problems to be solved rather than as people in their own right. They're the people who are manipulated into having contraceptive injections whether they want them or not and who need not be consulted about what happens to them. Their precious possessions matter little to others. It's a fascinating picture too of the social workers who care for Marilyn but who sometimes struggle to cope with their own problems - something which I think many of us forget.

I'd like to thank the publishers, Cinnamon Press, for sending this book to The Bookbag.

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Buy Marilyn and Me by Shanta Everington at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Marilyn and Me by Shanta Everington at


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