erasing clouds

Book Review: Ged Simmons, The Gravedigger's Story

by anna battista

Set your clock back in time, say around the '60s, and imagine you are a teenager who falls pregnant and doesn't have a clue about who the father of the baby might be because of her promiscuous sexual lifestyle. Imagine also that your parents are Irish Catholics, who, to save you and your family from such a shame, marry you to a local neighbour, a widower who, like a martyr, accepts saving your reputation and the honour of your baby, Mason. If you managed to imagine all this, then you can now get into the real story and start reading Ged Simmons' The Gravedigger's Story (I.m.p. Fiction).

The novel is narrated by the child himself, Mason, who's now grown up and recounts the story of his first few years of life, of his experiences at school, of his friends, of his absent mother and loving stepfather. Indeed Mason truly loves his Dadda who teaches him woodcarving, tells him beautiful stories and gives him the best memory of his life, sledging in the local park covered in a soft mantle of snow on a Christmas morning when everybody is still sleeping. The spell of a quiet life will soon be broken though by Mason's mother who takes him away from Dadda to live with her new boyfriend. More boyfriends and more moves will follow, while Mason becomes increasingly solitary, till he decides to leave his mum and travel across Europe for a while.

Mason's life will unexpectedly bring him back to the place where he was born, where he becomes a gravedigger and is briefly reunited with his Dadda till a quite sad and tragic finale with a twist in the tail. Simmons, a popular British TV actor who penned a few screenplays, has created in his debut novel a melancholic but beautiful tale about childhood, growing up, friendship and loneliness. I'm not sure if it's the story or its style, but once you open Simmons' novel, you won't be able to put it down till the end and when you reach the end you'll start reading it again and again. The Gravedigger's Story is simply haunting.


Issue 23, May 2004

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