Fat Hen by Richard Francis, published by Fourth Estate, London. Paperback 1999.
Fat Hen, a novel from Richard Francis, the acclaimed author of "Taking Apart the Poco Poco", is a bittersweet portrait of the Willis family, who live in a small terraced house in 1940s Stockport. Fat Hen is a novel about the inner and outer lives we create for ourselves and how they impinge on each other, sometimes even without our realising it. It's Stockport, 1948, and an ordinary family, Rose and Jack Willis, their son Donald, and Rose's father Ernie, are living apparently uneventful existences in a small terraced house. While moving a piano Jack makes a discovery that enables him to create an alternative life for himself, unknown to his nearest and dearest. Rose, comforting an acquaintance whose son died shortly before he was due to appear at a municipal ball, finds herself having an experience that she simply can't put a name to. Ernie becomes increasingly absorbed by his two main interests, executions and the novels of Sir Walter Scott, and discovers that these obsessions have a part to play in his own destiny. Young Donald convinces himself that he died at the age of six, and that his whole existence is a fantasy of the afterlife. Fat Hen explores the magical underpinning of daily life. The lives of all the members of this family are dogged by misunderstanding and betrayal but also held in the balance by good humour and forgiveness. Fat Hen is a rich and complex novel that is poignant and comic in turns.
The book is in good condition but has a crease to the top of the front cover and slight bumping to the corners. There are some feint marks to the page edges but all inside pages are tight and clean. Inscribed by the author on the title page, "To Chaz, Richard Francis, with very best wishes, Brighton 1999.