'Antigona,' I said. 'How would you feel if I wrote your life down in a book?' 'Good', she said at once. 'Good. And then a feature film, actually. Mini-series'. One morning in London, two neighbours start to chat over the heads of their children.
Kate Clanchy is a writer, privileged and sheltered, Antigona is a refugee from Kosovo.
On instinct, Kate offers Antigona a job as a nanny, and Antigona, equally shrewdly, accepts.
Over the next five years and a thousand cups of coffee Antigona's extraordinary story slowly emerges.
She has escaped from a war, she has divorced a violent husband, but can she escape the harsh code she was brought up with, the Kanun of Lek?
At the kitchen table where anything can be said, the women discover they have everything, as well as nothing, in common. 'Clanchy's portrait of Antigona is wonderfully vivid, as are her reflections on her own complex feelings.
A powerfully written, refreshingly honest work' - "Observer".
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288 pages
- Publisher: Pan Macmillan
- Publication Date: 18/09/2009
- Category: True stories
- ISBN: 9780330449335
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by gaskella
Antigona is Kosovan, a single mother with two daughters and a young son; they are refugees in London. They had a terrible journey to get there escaping from war and Antigona's wife-beater of a husband. Kate Clanchy has a happy home and a young baby, but needs time to restart her career as a poet and journalist. A chance meeting of the two leads to Kate offering Antigona a job firstly as a cleaner, then later nanny, recognising Antigona's strength of character. Antigona has a fantastic work ethic and soon fills every day with cleaning jobs, and waitressing in the evenings. The two women click and become friends. Gradually Kate teases out Antigona's story: about the culture of living in the Albanian mountains and their strict code of law, the Kanun, which is honour-led; about their hard lives; about how she's desperate to find out what happened to her family; about how her brothers also in London don't accept her divorce. Kate is fascinated, horrified, humbled, and also really wants to help as much as she can. Antigona embraces Western culture, yet the Kanun runs deep, and when her daughters are on the cusp of becoming young women, she can't let them go; Kate finds these attitudes very difficult. Clanchy agonises over everything; she may be a liberal feminist, but overall tries very hard to understand and remain balanced. This was a engaging memoir, and Clancy's poetic style is very readable. The whole was a fascinating snapshot into another very different culture that is yet part of Europe.(Book supplied by Amazon Vine programme).
Review by DubaiReader
A fascinating memoir. This book described the life of Antigona, an Albanian refugee, from the time the soldiers drove her and her family out of their home, through to the present day. What made the presentation unusual was that it was written by the neighbour who employed Antigona as a cleaner and subsequently as a nanny. Kate Clancy is a recognised poet and journalist and she saw the opportunity of recording the experiences of her employeee / friend, to increase awareness of the situation of refugees in the UK. Antigona's story is retold chronologically from the time Ms Clancy met her in the street and on impulse offered her a cleaning job. Gradually Antigon's experiences are drawn out as trust grows. We learn of her amazing escape from her mountain home, through Italy and into Britain illegally. But it's hard to judge her for this. She works incredibly hard to protect and provide for her family and at times seems to get very little in return. What struck me was the incredible emotional baggage that Antigona and her family brought from their homeland. "The Kanun of Lek" - a moral code by which they lived and which has so little respect for women. It is in some aspects similar to Muslim morality in its conservative dress and the concept of removing women from male temptation, but allows for corporal punishment of wives and even their murder if they step out of line. Having read The Cellist of Sarajevo, which takes place in the war, this makes an excellent follow-up by describing the experiences of one family's attempts to integrate into our society. I am sure this book has increased my understanding of the predicament of such people and will help promote a wider feeling of acceptance. Definitely recommended.
Review by joellalibrarything
This is a an amazing book and I would recommend it to anyone.