Nora Doyle, a young Irish girl, has come to university in London. A loving and idyllic childhood was brutally cut short when she was forced to assume the responsibility of looking after her Downs Syndrome brother while her parents, devastated by his birth, retreated into their collapsed lives. Only Nora gave her brother the love, care and attention he needed, but she had to endure the watchful eye of her bullying, dogmatic father and the resentment of her crushed, self-pitying mother.
To escape the small-town claustrophobia of a Northern Ireland battered by political and religious divisions, Nora begins a new life in London. In excited anticipation of finding friends and caring adults to replace her own lack of parental love and normal family life, she instead becomes the obsession of her narcissistic lecturer and finds it hard to connect with her peers who fail to understand her vulnerable reserve. Nora finally realises that she can escape from her family, but her behaviour and relationships with those around her continue to be shaped by her upbringing.
Written with sensitivity and a rare emotional insight, and cutting back and forth in time between Nora’s life in London and the sadness-tinged world of her childhood, this is a richly woven story about how we make connections and what it is that severs them.
Reviews of Grievance
- ‘The harrowing experience of a child growing up in a family made brutal by social shame is powerfully rendered…there is an aching truthfulness in the writing…“Grievance” will stay with me for its emotional truth…We shall certainly hear more of Marguerite Alexander.’ Independent
- ‘“Grievance” is a campus novel with a difference. Its beautifully nuanced account of Nora’s moral and intellectual education and in particular its vivid, unsentimental portrait of Felix for which Marguerite Alexander acknowledges the inspiration of her own son, make for a debut of promise and distinction.’ Daily Mail
- ‘It is the most riveting debut novel – or indeed any novel – that I have read for a long, long time. This is a deeply human, hugely readable story and I’m telling everyone I meet how great it is.’ Mavis Cheek