MOTHER NAKED: A dark comedy about hypocrisy.
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The story in brief:
For Ruth’s 100th birthday the family gathers in a remote hotel. They deplore her scandalous past – but might they have worse secrets of their own?
Ruth worked at the Windmill in her youth and behind her back is criticised by the family as an ex-stripper notorious for her complicated love-life. They say that in the war she drove her first husband to kill himself, and that she married her second husband only to provide a father for her young son.
Her four children now range in age from 60 to 75 and their working lives are virtually over. The eldest, Freddie, born to Ruth’s first husband, has in the last ten years put on a lot of weight. His son and daughter are there, but he no longer talks to his son. His sister Lucy stands aloof, nursing her drinks, while Charles, five years younger and the richest in the room, has come with his new wife, a Lithuanian half his age – much the same age as his two sons. Noticeably missing is Ruth’s even more successful youngest son, Jack, now Lord Jack, considered an outsider by the others and assumed not to be their father’s son.
As the rain teems down outside and the hotel staff keep serving drinks it seems the guest of honour may never arrive, during which time her children and their own children reveal family secrets. Well plied with drink they do not hold back and are more garrulous than they ought to be. By the time Ruth does arrive we have learnt that their true histories are not as they would have us believe. They are not always as they believe themselves to be. So can we believe what they say about Ruth?
The matriarch of the family is not as we were led to expect – and when the guests finally begin their meal, the party does not go to plan. The unexpected happens.
This a novel written entirely in dialogue. The format resembles that of a play script, in which characters make their cases (or excuses) in a series of short but revealing dramatic monologues. From time to time they interrupt each other or break off into cross-dialogue. It’s an unusual format, but perfect for this extraordinary book.