“A true story of shattered childhoods… Following her escape from Nazi Germany and the loss of her family Judith searches for unconditional love and acceptance. In a bleak boarding house she meets her future husband another Jewish refugee who cares for her when she is ill.Tragically she associates illness with love and a pattern is set. Judith’s behaviour eventually spiral into anorexia a disease little known or understood in 1950’s Britain. While she starves herself, Judith forces Ruth, her daughter, to eat. She makes elaborate meals and watches her consume them. She gives her a pint of custard before bed each night. As the disease progresses roles are reversed. Ruth must care for her mother and loses any hope of a normal childhood. The generation gap is tragically bridged by loss and extreme self-loathing, in this moving true story of a family’s fight to survive.”
I read this book a couple of weeks ago but it stayed with me. The above blurb does not do justice to what comes from the book. Often when reding about someone who has been damaged by life you can see [or surmise] the cause but with Judith and her husband Geoffrey, whilst the ordeal of jewishness in 1930’s Europe was perilous they did escape the worst of it, what was it [other than habit or guilt] that moulded them into such people. What was the catalyst that fuelled her annorexia yet blinded her to its rippling consequences.
Ruth as soon as she was percieved old enough became the substitute, the housemaid, the nurse, the cleaner, the cook, the servant, the non-human, the non-daughter. The affection, pride and love you associate with parenthood quickly turned into fear of rebellion, fear of discovery, fear of loss. Ruth’s needs as a child, a person, a human were irrelovent, controls were used [and abused] to keep her where and as they wanted. Don’t misunderstand, I am not talking of beatings, chains or caged captivity, just the strategic engineering of Ruth’s own mind set or what and who she had access to.
The consequences of the parental actions are life long and deeply ingrained, but Ruth has survived, probably better than most would and certainly better than either of her parents would.
A tough read at times but eloquently detailed with heartfelt genuine innocence of her plight.