Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source: My local library -get your own copy direct from Text Classics
This is actually my first read for 2013. We were going to the beach on New Year’s Day and I took the couple of days before to consider which book I’d like to start the year with. I still didn’t quite decide ‘til nearly the last minute. We went to Balmoral Beach and when I cracked this book open, by happy coincidence, it was set around that area (Balmoral Beach / Neutral Bay). I was stoked!
I made a mistake by reading the Introduction though for it told me more of the story that I’d like to know and I continued reading with a hesitant spirit. I wanted to get it over it but I kinda already knew that will happen and I hated that feeling! I resolve from now on to skip Introductions (maybe to save it til after the reading).
The Child and the Mother in me protest at calling a child PS (short for Postscript). Understandably, whilst it was the mother who began the nickname whilst bub is still peanut-size, I found it unbelievable that it would carry on for years! To read, in the Introduction, that “the painful struggles of PS…is based on his [the author’s] own experiences in childhood”, made this story especially painful knowing that it was partially, mostly true.
PS had 4 aunties (his mother’s sisters): one whom he lived with & mothers him so, one who adores him but only when convenient, one who believes the end of the world is coming in a few months’ time, and one who lives half a world away but is on her way to take charge of him. I did not find any of these aunties to be endearing and hence, my not liking this book so much.
Aunt Lila is basically the mother he knows but she is overly protective among other annoying habits. Spelling every inconvenient not-so-happy thing / someone or even disguising ‘unhappy’ bits to make them sound innocent and lovely was a bit much for me. Reading it was smothering and I can just imagine what effects it would have on a child who is now old enough to understand if some adult will take the time to explain things to him.
Aunt Vanessa wants him for reasons she herself doesn’t quite realise. She’s determined to change him, to mould him to what she wants him to be. PS is fascinated by her and at the same time, frightened of her and is disliked her for the changes she’s wrought in his life. Being pulled in 2 directions with family politics and machinations of which he isn’t aware of the details of but could understand enough from the moods of his aunties, that things aren’t well, distressed him. Aunt Vanessa’s silent treatment and moodiness upset him.
I’m not a perfect or the best mother around but the mothering in this book irks me so! It might have been typical of the time to assume that a child just will not understand many of the issues however it never does well to underestimate what a child will understand. In the end (as most of the book is told from PS’ perspective), it is PS who is empowered –who grasped the knowledge of self and grabbed hold of it, looking forward.