Paperback review: All the Beggars Riding, By Lucy Caldwell


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The Independent Culture

When Lara was 12, her father, a plastic surgeon, died in a helicopter crash. By that time, she and her younger brother were already aware that their dad had led a double life: he would shuttle between their home in London and Northern Ireland, where he had another family.

Thirty years later, after her mother's death, Lara decides to confront her past and write down her memories of an unconventional childhood. Lucy Caldwell's second novel is wonderfully well done. To begin with, Lara's narration vacillates as she tries to piece together fragmented recollections ("lives aren't orderly, and nor is memory"). But she comes to discover the empathetic power of writing: by imagining the world from her parents' perspectives she begins to make sense of the choices they made and, finally, to understand them.