Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor

'I Am Thora': A Better Place By Alyson Marsh

Alyson Marsh’s new book explodes with polychromatic harmony: the colour of a firework display, Marsh renders the immense gravitas of her theme counter-intuitively, and with the heavy symbolism of a Frida Kahlo canvas.

Ilustrated by the author, the book’s fine images are delivered in a spectrum of light. Which is fitting for a narrative of survival and endurance beyond the death whose untimely occurrence is the subject of its contemplation. Notionally a book for children – the reflective, rhyming lyricism of the text embodies a means of dealing with early bereavement - the lines widen, inferentially, to peel like a bell in the minds of all of us who, at one time or another, must grieve. The success of A Better Place is predicated on authenticity of experience, and sincerity of purpose.

Cast in the fragile, disbelieving measure of a keening child, A Better Place offers solace in the vernacular of loss, working through stages of vulnerability, and realised in the instinctive responses of a youthful imagination to a strange and frightening world suddenly tilted on its axis. Melding surely towards a kind of accommodation, Marsh’s words wrap hope into simplicity of expression:

‘I have a theory
And it’s all linked to me!
He is where he remembers
What we did together.’

Alyson Marsh’s story was engendered in the premature loss of her own father – he died in 2006, when she herself was four months pregnant. Towards the end of this constructive and rather beautiful enquiry into the nature of childhood grief, she encourages the young reader to actively explore their own sense of loss by providing several pages, blank except for borders, for the committal of words, or perhaps a picture of the loved one, to a private diary.

The author’s commitment to sharing her own experience for the benefit of others, in a time of uncertainty, is to be heartily commended.

A Better Place is published by Alyson Marsh.

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