The Upstairs People

Trafalgar Square Publishing $11.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-86068-998-0
Dawson carefully crafts this World War II-era novel set in London. Alma Gerber, a young girl, slowly discovers the shocking cruelty of her mother, whom her children have nicknamed Cossey. From the beginning, disturbed by Cossey's reminiscences of WW I and her strict upbringing, Alma suspects ``something funny about our mother.'' As the global war rages, Alma does battle on the home front as Cossey nearly destroys everyone in the family through acts ranging from marital infidelity to ordering the lobotomy of Alma's older sister, Vivian. Dawson artfully captures the minutiae of a repressive, sexist, classist England in the '30s and '40s, with details such as signs posted in railway stations and snippets of songs children learn (``We are but little children weak / not used to any high degree''). Alma's witty child's-eye view of adult conventions lends some humor to a dark story. In the final chapters, however, Cossey becomes too terrible to be believed or understood. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
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