FICTION IN BRIEF

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The Independent Culture
The Girl From Norfolk With the Flying Table by Lilie Ferrari (Michael Joseph: pounds 15.99. This book promises to be lively - it has an intriguing title, it is set in the swinging Sixties - and parts are lively, particularly the scenes in which Beatles fans bash limousine windows and sob uncontrollably. The Girl From Norfolk is a multiple rites-of-passage story. The central character, Cissie, and her three friends are united by their desire to meet their pop idols (each loves a different Beatle). This quest drives the plot and along the way, churns up issues that Cissie must resolve if she is to become a woman including: has she romanticised her "dead" father?

Through the novel Cissie corresponds with George Harrison's mother. As a teenager, Lilie Ferrari herself kept up a correspondence with George Harrison's mother. Philip Roth says of semi-autobiographical writing that the relevant question is not "which bits are real and which made up?" but: "What has the writer gained by wearing this mask?" In this case the answer is, not a great deal. Despite distance afforded by the third-person narrative, key characters remain two-dimensional and where it seems social comment is intended, analysis and insight are often lacking. The Girl From Norfolk might have benefited from less mask, more autobiography. It is nevertheless an engaging portrait of an era.

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