It is 1977 and Ann is 11 when her father drops at off at school one day, drives away and takes his own life.
It is an inauspicious start to anyone’s adolescence, and things are only going to get worse. As Ann’s mother struggles to cope, they lose their home, and end up sleeping on other people’s sofas. Ann sublimates her own grief and bewilderment in punk, booze and sex. Every time you think at last things are going to get better – there’s another turn of the screw.
And yet, unlikely as it sounds, this novel is uplifting and a joy to read, full of northern grit and black humour (it’s set in Stockport), inhabited by offbeat characters managing the best that they can in difficult circumstances.
Perhaps it helps that we know that Ann comes through it all and there is a happy ending. Because this novel is autobiographical, and the author Carol Morley – the real Ann – is a renowned filmmaker (The Falling, Dreams of a Life) who has clearly made a success of her life.
No wonder the book rings with truth. And resilience. It is about what happens to real people when they are confronted with real tragedy, and that is compelling reading.
7 Miles Out by Carol Morley (Blink Reality, £9.85)