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Martha Jane and Me

Mavis Nicholson
Publication Date: 
Friday, May 23, 2008
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Today, television interviewer Mavis Nicholson regularly rubs shoulders with the famous. As a girl in south Wales in the thirties and forties, she dreaded her friends finding out how closely she rubbed shoulders with Martha Jane, the grandmother whose large feather bed she had to share until she left home.

Mavis’s funny and delightfully different childhood memoir conjures up her vanished world at 5 Mansel Street, Briton Ferry, the small terraced house crammed with grandparents, parents, brother and sister. She describes with humour and affection the daily round of work and play – the street games with friends, outings with the flamboyant Martha Jane, visits from the vegetable cart and the cockle lady, her grandfather’s drunken exploits, her father’s job at the steelworks, and her mother’s gentle influence over them all.And with infectious delight she evokes the weekly highlights of the Kinema and Jerusalem Chapel, dates with boys, and the gradual awakening to life beyond the Ferry…

Above all she recalls the bittersweet memories of her possessive, baleful, increasingly jealous grandmother, who fed Pop, her husband, separate meals, surreptitiously sold her daughter’s piano and regularly drove her son-in-law to seething exile in his garden shed – Martha Jane, the dominant influence in Mavis’s young life.

Mavis’s Nicholson’s autobiography is an enchanting account of the joys and agonies of girlhood, and an unforgettable portrait of a community, its characters and a way of life seventy years and a world away.

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