Laura & June Hird (4 stars)

Dear Laura (Canongate)


Not a writer who has been known for her schmaltz, Laura Hird might have shaken up a few of her fans for a second when they heard that a book of letters penned by June, her late mum, was the next publication after last year’s raw bunch of short stories, Hope and Other Urban Tales. Fortunately, it’s easy to see the roots and inspiration behind Laura’s talents as creative sparks and an honest, jagged sensibility shine from the pages.

The correspondence (bookended by details of the context in which it is written) kicks off from the period of Laura’s departure in 1988 to study Eng Lit in London, and is infused with the standard worries of a mother whose child has fled the nest. Was she eating properly? Was she doing enough studying and keeping the partying to a respectable level? If the clothes she has sent down don’t fit, they need to be sent back immediately (a favoured Hird senior word, usually underlined). All the while, June is on an NHS waiting list for a mitral valve replacement while fielding calls from Laura’s hopeless ex and fretting about the charlatan who is supposed to be transforming the bathroom and kitchen. As the years go by and Laura moves back to Edinburgh, her literary career still waiting to take off, death begins to strikes the family down.

This isn’t just a moving insight into a particular mother and daughter’s close and, by natural extension, occasionally strained relationship but somehow tells the universal truth of all mothers and daughters.

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