July 2018 Debut of the Month | One of our 2018 Books of the Year
Based on the author's own unconventional upbringing on a Thames Barge, Mud is an unusual and touching roman a clef. Lydia tells her father he is ruining her life when he announces that the family - she has one sister, two brothers and a much loved cat - will be going to live on a boat, and that his girlfriend Kate and her three children will be moving in too. His casual reference to Swallows and Amazons makes her shudder and it's hard to imagine any teenager would enjoy their new life - the boat is leaky and uncomfortable, adults and children alike squabble, and the atmosphere is far from happy. At least Lydia makes a new friend - the fabulous, straight-talking Kay - while other bright spots of life away from home include teenage parties and a burgeoning romance. Events are recounted by Lydia via diary entries, and she is a wonderful storyteller - funny, honest, with a wry self-deprecatory tone that endears her to readers. It's a story that could be very sad - Lydia's father's drinking becomes a real problem and eventually Kate leaves him; but Lydia's quirky stoicism, and descriptions of the love and support of her friends and siblings keep it an uplifting read. This is a great story for teenagers, but would be enjoyed by readers of any age. ~ Andrea Reece
As the 1980s dawn, Lydia finds herself caught in a maelstrom of monumental change herself, which she recounts in her unassumingly witty diary. Her mum died three years ago and her dad has remarried Kate, which means she now has a new stepmum, new stepsiblings, and then - horror of horrors – her dad announces that they’re all moving to a new home. On a boat. Cue much conflict and upset courtesy of two families trying to get on in ramshackle surroundings, her dad’s increasingly worrying behaviour and her big sister flying the nest for Cambridge University.
Lydia’s articulation of her grief is deeply moving; those moments that leave her “overwhelmed suddenly by the strangeness of my mother just not existing anymore.” Throughout Lydia is a loveable bundle of self-effacing honesty and contemplation, and her astute observations cut to the core: “Everyone has to grow up, don’t they? Everyone has to go away one day.” As Lydia navigates these swirling new waters, she practices the art of getting on with things and discovers the delights of genuine friendship. Funny, poignant and perfectly-formed, this is a triumph of true-to-life storytelling.