Review of the reads – December 2022

Words by:
Yusef Sayed
Featured in:
November 2022

The Library Called Life by Our Betty
Collated by Helen Pearson

These poems by North Somercotes born Betty Irene Drayton, who died in 2003, came into the possession of her daughter Helen Pearson last year after her father, Betty’s husband, died. More than a simple gathering of published and unpublished writings, Helen sought to create a portrait of Betty.

A World War Two plane spotter, nurse, typist, lay preacher and housewife, Betty expressed her impressions and feelings in poems throughout much of her life, beginning with ‘Heaven’, written at age 13 in 1938 and published soon after, locally.

Some of the earliest poems appeared in this magazine in the 1960s, including the simply titled ‘Lincolnshire’ which pays tribute to the ‘County of marshes, fens and drains’. Many others were published in the Louth Canners’ magazine and local church newsletters; some were turned into hymns and sung at services at St James’ Church, Louth reflecting Betty’s commitment to the Christian faith.

affection towards harvest time and summers on the beach, as well as some dismay at modern developments – notably the replacement Louth Malt Kiln, the ‘Concrete monster…Lording greyly’. There is a repeated emphasis on seizing the day and making significant life changes, not being ‘always inside the window,/Looking out’ but while a tone of hope persists, there is an unavoidable sense of poignancy and regret at the swiftness of youth and life. Christmas and other traditional holidays are a time of especial reflection and words of consolation, with an emphasis on courage and compromise, on ‘loving and giving’.

The poems are annotated by Pearson, giving details of first publication, and there are accompanying photos that add further context. It is only fitting that a woman who viewed her life as a library should finally have a book in which her words are compiled and can be enjoyed by others.

Published by Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd, Price £7.99

A Question of Loyalty
By Gillian Poucher

The follow-up to Lincolnshire based author Gillian Poucher’s After the Funeral explores more family intrigue in the life of counsellor Julia Butler. After the death of her recently discovered half-sister, Julia offers support to niece Grace and her baby Emmeline, but fears grow concerning the new mum’s mental health, as well as for her personal safety, as she tries to avoid involving the child’s father in her daughter’s life.

Set in the city of Lincoln and making reference to several local landmarks – including a set piece finale at the Castle, the novel can be read as a standalone work and many readers will connect with Poucher’s perceptive characterisations, as Julia and those closest to her are torn between sympathy and suspicion, vulnerability and vigilance, as they cope with their troubles and look for direction and love in their lives.

The counsellor herself, relied upon in her professional career to support others, struggles to maintain a fragile romantic relationship and familial connections old and new. She is taunted by a manipulative new client yet curiously drawn to a scarred homeless man – who will each play a decisive role as the plot unfolds.

Poucher builds a sense of unease effectively, weaving all the characters’ lives together with some mirroring so that one raised suspicion or worry becomes quickly doubled. The atmosphere for this drama is suitably painted through persistent references to wind and rain, though the symbolic connections between environmental details and character that readers will likely pick up on naturally are at times unnecessarily underscored through Julia’s thought processes.

Blending thriller elements with a realistic look at psychological issues and the value of conversation – with an undercurrent of spirituality too – A Question of Loyalty will appeal to readers looking for a locally set novel unafraid of tackling the complexities of adult relations, and with enough sinister and mysterious aspects to draw them further in to find out what, or who, is waiting around the next corner.

Published by Wordjoy, Price £11.99

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