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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Same-Sex Relationships In The Ninenteen Fifties

Tell it to the Bees - Fiona Shaw

Set in a small northern town in the nineteen fifties, Tell It To The Bees is the story of Charlie whose utterly self-absorbed father walks out on his marriage leaving his wife Lydia unable to pay her rent, despite working all the hours she can in a factory.

Through her son,Lydia becomes friends with Jean, a local doctor. When Lydia is threatened with eviction, Jean takes her in. Though neither of them have ever considered themselves to be any different from other people, they find themselves drawn into an intense sexual relationship.

Gossip travel quickly in a small town and Jean's husband appears at Charlie's school to take his son away from this 'unnatural' household and threatens to go to the police if Lydia tries to take the boy back.

I loved the author's almost cinematic use of detail. It's this that makes her so successful in capturing the world as seen from a child's eye. Deeply moving, sometimes harrowing, Tell It To The Bees drills down into the permafrost of nineteen fifties Britain to reveal a twilight world of repression lit up here and there with moments of pure joy.