Kate Clanchy - Antigona and Me

When I started reading this book I didn’t think I was going to like it at all. I imagined a sort of preachy, politically correct, middle-class liberal Londoner shoving it in my face. Well, it was in my face but it was so not preachy or pc or even middle-class. What I read was life lived right on the edge in all its grittiness and truth. Kate Clanchy does what really good writers are supposed to do; she gave me a clear and unobstructed window into a lived life. I wasn’t just an observer. I was there in her own awakening. Tragedy and struggle in the life of a displaced person, fleeing the ravages of war, caught in the grip of blind government policies weaves its way through these pages, yes. But so much more of the brilliancy of life lived honestly, painfully, beautifully in Antigona as she navigates her way through the maze of what we so casually call Britain.

Antigona works hard, very hard, to pay back the criminal outfit that got her into the UK. She works hard to send money back to her family. She struggles against the moral code from her old country and culture but never truly abandons it. Still, she works – twelve, fourteen, sixteen hour days, seven days a week. Perhaps not what you think of when you imagine asylum seekers hidden in all the dark corners of the UK and other European countries.

Everything you thought you knew about asylum seekers or displaced persons or those ‘foreigners’ washed up upon our shores is challenged gracefully by Kate Clanchy in this honest tale for our times. It is a beautifully written chronicle of one British woman’s encounter with the unknown, the different, the ‘other’. She may start out as a ‘do-gooder’ but she becomes real, honest, and so very open in her encounter with all she once took for granted. And her writing carries you along so smoothly you hardly realize you are on the journey until you come to the end.

I liked this book very much. I think it is very well written and important in its topic of discussion. I’d like to hear it read on Radio 4. I’d love to hear Kate and Antigona on Woman’s Hour and The Book Club on the World Service. Once you read it you’ll know what I mean. Enjoy!

By CJ Craig (Amazon reader reviews)

Other reviews:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/sep/13/antigona-and-me-kate-clanchy
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/antigona-and-me-by-kate-clanchy-1784882.html