The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen

J. L. Harland • April 28th, 2020

Lesley Allen’s highly acclaimed debut novel, set in Northern Ireland, is a story about a girl, abandoned by her mother at a young age. Her father, older and unsure, is remote in his affections and Biddy is an outsider, relentlessly bullied at school and lacking in self-esteem.

The story takes us deep into the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider and the butt of bullies. As such, you might think the story would be one of unremitting bleakness. There are some scenes which are harrowing and painful to read and the author does not shy away from difficult and dark issues. But the story also charms with a thread of magic running through it like Ariadne’s, taking us with Biddy Weir, ‘bloody weirdo’ as her tormentor Alison Flemming repeatedly calls her, to a place where there is redemption and hope for the future.

A seaside town in Northern Ireland forms the backdrop to the story but the immediate sensations and observation of Biddy herself are what is most powerful and vivid in the foreground. This very close third person point of view means that we understand much of the story through Biddy’s eyes, but the author reserves a little distance where we interact with some of the characters and events outside Biddy’s point of view. The father is delicately drawn and the teacher, Penny Jordan, who befriends Biddy. The counsellor, Terri, is a wonderful combination of mother figure and healer. One reservation is the story arc of the hateful Alison Flemming, which feels less convincing towards the end of the book, where we see her adult self.

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is published by Twenty7 Books. Buy now from your local bookshop.

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