It’s 1962 Your Earliest Memory - the opening chapter of Andrew Cowan’s novel Your Fault. The sun is shining and Peter’s older self settles on it being August and he is aged two and two thirds. The second person narrative draws the reader into a young Peter’s perspective, while allowing glimpses of an adult blueprint.
The novel spans a period of eleven years, Peter a year older with each chapter. The story depicts life lived on a Corporation housing estate on the edge of a New Town. And his earliest memory is also the point that Peter’s story both begins and ends.
Peter’s mother has taken him and baby sister out; he does not want to go but is frightened of being abandoned: 'You bawl at your mother and wait for your future to reach you, a future you do not want but cannot prevent. This may be your inciting incident, the point at which your story begins. For now, let us suppose so. Here comes fury. Here comes a spanking.' Throughout the novel Peter strives to gain his mother’s affection, attention and approval, while his mother struggles with loneliness, being a wife, a mother and a young attractive woman drawn in by the attentions of male neighbours.
His father is older than his mother and works at the Works; his affection, when he expresses it, is towards Peter’s sister. Peter gains insight into his father’s past and present, through items found in a box and a brown leatherette file.
As the years pass, the reader witnesses major events in Peter’s life: going to school, Butlin’s, family upsets, childhood injuries, sibling rivalry, friendships, burgeoning sexual awareness. Beneath family life simmers unspoken truths, misunderstandings and hidden emotions, leaving Peter to work it all out.
About the reviewer
Sally is a full-time MA Creative Writing student at the University of Leicester. She writes short stories and poetry. She gains inspiration from old photographs, history and she is also inspired by writers Sandra Cisneros and Liz Berry. Her short prose piece, 'A School Photograph,' has been published online by NEWMAG. She worked as a nurse for thirty-three years and lives in North Warwickshire with her partner, three pekin bantams and Bob the dog.