Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
This post might be slightly unusual but I really want to talk about a book I had to read for one of my seminars : “The Hiding Place” by Trezza Azzopardi. My tutor chose to study one of her novels because Azzopardi studied at UEA a few years ago. The story takes place in Cardiff, probably in the 1960s although the date is not clear. Dolores Gauci grows up in a family full of secrets, with a gambler as a father, a mother who eventually gets mad, and abusive sisters.
Their life seems like a series of unfortunate events: firstly, the parents really hope that their sixth child will finally be a boy, but they have to face a big disappointment when they find out that it is a girl. When she is only one month old, Dolores, who narrates her life in the first person, is caught in a fire in their house, loses her hand, and the whole family has to move out. One of her sisters mysteriously leaves home and nobody is allowed to mention her name. Later on, one of her pyromaniac sisters is sent to live somewhere else, while the father forces his eldest daughter (aged 17) to marry a 40 years old man.
The novel is a collection of the memories of Dol, the things she overheard, what she’s been told… When her mother dies, the grown-up Dolores goes back home to Cardiff and reflects upon her life, how her sisters treated her and what truly happened when she was a child. In fact, all she’s ever wanted was to be part of the family and to feel accepted. She needs her questions to be answered, but still feels rejected by her sisters.
“The Hiding Place” is strangely striking by the bluntness of some of the events that are told, the vivid images, and the illustration of loneliness. Dolores feels lost, and it is reflected very efficiently by Trezza Azzopardi’s writing style. Dolores’s memories are scattered all over the place and do not always make sense, just life the life she lived as a child.
Although the book was sometimes depressing and confusing (the events do not happen in chronological order and what is going on is not always clear), I found this novel fantastic and really striking. I’d definitely recommend it!