I don't know how Kim Kelly manages to fit so much rich life history between the pages of such a relatively small book (novella) without it sounding like a condensed version, and yet she does...and beautifully so.
If this were a gift to the memory of her own grandmother, it would indeed be a lovely one.
This work of fiction takes some inspiration from Kim Kelly's own memories and those of her grandmother Lillian Kelly.
I didn't read this book so much as I absorbed it, I was transported to Grandmother Nell's kitchen and could almost smell the yeasty bread as she removed the freshly baked loaves from the unique pipe shaped tubes which they were baked in. As she does so, she narrates her life stories to her granddaughter, Brigid, who sits very quietly nearby, lest she break the spell.
I could easily visualise the scene as Nell sliced that bread with precision along the lines that were formed by the tube it had been baked in, performing the tasks that had become her daily rituals, all the while imbuing them with the intense loving care and devotion she reserved for her family.
It's in these quiet moments that Brigid learns her grandmother's stories, she shares them sparingly like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which ultimately form a much bigger picture, but one that takes a lifetime to complete.
Wild Chicory is a beautifully portioned out sensory journey through Nell's life as she recounts her immigration from Ireland in 1900, across the seas to Australia, incorporating the many and varied life challenges along the way which impacted on her life and her family...leading right up to their lives in Sydney in 1976.
Through this telling we are able to note how certain events and customs have impacted Nell and Brigid's lives...noting also that it is not just the big events that impact a life, but many of the little nuances that stay and imprint themselves on our souls forever to evoke memories...like the smell of your grandmother's freshly baked bread.
Highly recommended 5★s
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