“War broke out, I remember it so clearly I was playing in the garden when the first German bombers came I was quickly whisked indoors, I had just turned six at the time.”
Writing in the midst and in hindsight of World War II Britain , although a lot older when she publicised it, “The Daughter I Never Had” is a memoir I found that delivers a very personal insight into the life and times of Patricia Saville.
Patricia’s voice as a working class British woman changes from each stage of her working class life yet her use of language remains a constant throughout. The tales she tells are fascinating! From birth right up until the present day, we can as working class readers sympathise and relate to Patricia amongst her adversities.
Born in 1933 in Highgate London, the life and times of Patricia Saville gives us a strikingly interesting insight into not only the individual experience of working class life but also to Britain’s’ involvement in the second world war. Patricia’s memoir also focuses on economic conditions England, childhood, adulthood, family, love and loss.
As I looked at the title of the memoir, “The Daughter I never had” it right off the bat hinted at a sense of morbidity but this is far from the case. We have the nostalgic trips to the beach and the joys of an innocent childhood amongst a war torn England. Saville’s memoir from the perspective of a working-class woman not only highlights childhood but also illustrates the joys of adulthood, the importance of family and above all the sheer wonder of working class life amongst 20th century Britain.
Yet I believe the main purpose of Savilles writing was to illustrate how the working class “Brits” lived. How even as times were tough the close-knit family celebrating the likes of “empire day” and “wash day” not only embraced British culture but how they watched it thrive and survive amongst tough times.
Patricia in the memoir is both the writer and Patricia the storyteller. I seen what some would describe as a working class dialect by Saville. She tells us the story of her life through her own language like she’s having a casual conversation. But too the pictures Saville includes as her life goes on creates a timeline of events through the perspective of a working class British woman.
I noticed Saville speaks with simplicity yet her working class character stands out. It flourishes. It reaches out to us and draws us in as though we too are a part of the story.
Although nothing extraordinary is said or done amongst Saville’s life, what is extraordinary is how simplistic and relatable the memoir can be towards the working classes. The humour it also provokes amongst times of uncertainty and economic despair are what bring Saville’s writing lives memoir to life!
Images also give Saville’s memoir creativity. They help to bring her story to life. It makes the memoir I feel immersive. As though we as readers are there alongside Patricia witnessing the adversities of working class life.
As seen above we have Patricia in adulthood amongst the, “messenger boys” who worked with Patricia in her post office days. This is merely four years prior to the marriage of Patricia and her husband Roy. Work is central to Patricia’s life as it was hard to obtain yet enabled her as a working class individual to maintain friendships, bring Patricia her first house and find love.
“The classic realist autobiography includes such elements as remembered details of childhood, a reassessment of the subjects education, a crisis and a recovery or a discovery of a new self.” And this is exactly what we get with Patricia Saville’s memoir. It’s not only a recovery but a discovery of the self through her first person narrative.
In terms of audience, as a non-literary piece of writing it appears the memoir was specifically written for family as there is amongst, “the daughter I never had” a degree of intimacy that could not be revealed to a public audience. Although there are elements of Saville’s memoir that do hint at also a working class readership. (Through both experience and language).
Conclusively, (I’ll not bear too much) the memoir of Saville is a very interesting read indeed! I’ll be looking extensively at the specific recollections of Patricia Saville from childhood and the war, to education and adulthood. If you are a working class individual even today as I am myself, then the telling of events, the choice of language, everything amongst the memoir of Patricia Saville is well worth the read!
GAGNIER, R., 1987. SOCIAL ATOMS: WORKING-CLASS AUTOBIOGRAPHY, SUBJECTIVITY, AND GENDER. Victorian Studies, 30(3), pp. 343-4.
Saville, P. “The Daughter I Never Had,” Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, Vol.4.