I picked up Jill Tweedie’s memoir, Eating Children, because I thought the title was both awful and intriguing; what on earth must her life have been like, I wondered, that she would give her autobiography such a horrible name? Well, now I know. It was at once exotic and mundane, strange and yet ordinary (by upper middle class standards of the time). It was a world away from my upbringing, and I yet I relate to Jill Tweedie in many ways and on almost every page she says something which touches a nerve with me.
I’m not yet sure whether Jill grew to enjoy being a woman, as I haven’t finished reading it, but, like me, she was someone who from an early age harboured some resentment towards her assigned gender.
The future grew dark at the thought of all the beastly things I’d have to learn because I was a girl.
As a child I hated being a girl and still feel that it’s somehow wrong and deeply unfair that I haven’t grown up to be a man. I was the only girl at school allowed to play football in PE, while the girls went off and did something boring like rounders; my favourite game at junior school was ‘armies’, where we had to crawl commando style through the long grass on the playing field and shoot our adversaries with imaginary machine guns; and even now I love to make my daughter’s eyes pop with admiration by flexing my impressive biceps in her direction.
Anyway, I’ll have to finish reading and then review it in its entirety, but so far it’s the first book I’ve read since Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, to provide me with that sense of identification. Perhaps Eating Children is a Bell Jar for my middle age.
I’m surprised to see that it has only 12 ratings on Goodreads – it really deserves more. Tweedie writes beautifully. lacing her prose with elements straight from fairy tale with their magic and exquisite descriptive qualities. I’m sure any Angela Carter fan would enjoy it as much I am.
Post Script: This started really well and held my attention until she graduated from Swiss Finishing school and was immediately invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. There’s always a sense that Jill Tweedie feels that she’s hard done by and yet her life was privileged by most people’s standards. I’ve reached the part where she marries a Hungarian count. She’s quite beastly to him (see how I’ve picked up the lingo) and just moans constantly. I give up! It just goes to show that some people are never satisfied.