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Motherwell

A Girlhood
Narrated by: Gabriel Quigley
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (79 ratings)

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Summary

Just shy of 18, Deborah Orr left Motherwell - the town she both loved and hated - to go to university. It was a decision her mother railed against from the moment the idea was raised. Win had very little agency in the world, every choice was determined by the men in her life. And strangely, she wanted the same for her daughter. Attending university wasn't for the likes of the Orr family. Worse still, it would mean leaving Win behind - and Win wanted Deborah with her at all times, rather like she wanted her arm with her at all times. But while she managed to escape, Deborah's severing from her family was only superficial. She continued to travel back to Motherwell, fantasising about the day that Win might come to accept her as good enough. Though of course it was never meant to be. 

Motherwell is a sharp, unflinching and often humorous memoir about the long shadow that can be cast when the core relationship in your life compromises every effort you make to become an individual. It is about what we inherit - the good and the very bad - and how a deeper understanding of the place and people you have come from can bring you towards redemption. 

©2020 Deborah Orr (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

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Mothering badly in Motherwell

"I love you, Deborah - you're my first born. But I don't like you - at all." This is one of the damagingly unkind things Deborah Orr's mother said to her grown-up daughter, along with telling her on another occasion that she was ugly.

Deborah Orr grew up in Motherwell in Lanarkshire, a place she hated & loved, with her harsh Scots father, John, and Essex-born mother Win who ruined lives including her own by rages and poisonous sulks. Orr is brilliant at creating the 1960s & 1970s culture with her father's open loathing of Catholics & homosexuals; when girls immersed themselves in 'Jackie' & their mothers in The People's Friend; the high-rise flats built to re-house desperate people were quickly named Heroin Heights, the saplings planted to produce green spaces were snapped by out of control kids who ruled those bleak spaces along with the drug users.

It was one of Deborah's achievements that she won a place at St Andrews university where her grudging mother allowed her to go only if she promised to return 'home' at the end of her time there. In fact Deborah fulfilled her parents' scathing warnings: she found the students alien & way too posh and descended into too much drink, too many spliffs, nasty sex and dropping out of her Honours course.

Avoiding shame was Mrs Orr's driving force, a life principle against which Deborah constantly offended. When she brought a partner home to meet her parents (a bad idea) her father spent the night vomiting at the thought of his daughter sleeping with a man UNDER HIS ROOF to whom she wasn't married. Despite all, Deborah loved her parents fiercely and wanted to please her mother - even, she realised later, by marrying (unsuccessfully) and thus doing the 'right thing'.

The whole book crackles with vitality including language. The narration by Gabriel Quigley creates accurately the different voices - Deborah's own, her mother's,& her father's in particular. Orr is scrupulously fair in showing her mother's good points as well as the tragedy of their destruction through her rages & her adherence to shame-avoiding rules.It is the sadness of it all which remains with me, not least the fact that Deborah did not live to see her book published. She had to escape her crushing parents, but despite her considerable successes as a journalist, damaged and constantly unquiet, it seems Deborah was for ever fighting to find answers to the answerable in her upbringing.

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Most honest and heartfelt book.

A very well written book. It took me back to my own childhood. Having a narcissistic mother is very difficult.
I feel Deborah is a much more forgiving and kinder daughter than I am.

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Life Revisited

I loved this book. The perfect union of narrator and story is rare but appreciated

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Just Lovely.

I loved this book. ot tookme bk to the 60s, 70s, etc... back to my London childhood. Amazing.Am so terribly sad that Deborah is no longer with us. God Bless you darling x

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beautifully written

i was waiting for publication of this memoir. Deborah Orr was the finest of writers. The book is executed in the most sensitive and incisive style. The attention to emotional and psychological detail is superb. Do t imagine this is simply a tale of human misery. yes it is painful in places but it also captures the messiness of being human that really touches the. heart.. also the descriptions of thr natural world and how nature provides a place of wonder and safety when we feel lonely and hurt. A magnificent read

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Intimate and inspiring

Great book, the author gives an insight into a harsh and lonely upbringing. Lot's of fun there too, enjoyable.

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A life unfolding

The clarity of the writing and the unsentimental vision of her childhood made this book compelling.