My Real Children by Jo Walton

Synopsis: It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.

Review: When I saw the theme of the story I admit that I was very intrigued. How could a heroine remember two different lives at the same time? Which one is real?

We thus begin the story by discovering Patricia today, a woman who is in a nursing home and can read every day the notes from the doctors saying if she is confused or not. But whatever she might read there, Patricia remembers two different lives, two lives that gave her different children and have seen various world events.
Thus we follow Patricia’s life or, at least, two lives since her childhood. Both correlate fairly well until she enters in college and meets with Mark … Ah Mark, a man and a big change in her life. It is here that her lives diverge, with an unhappy marriage, or a life with a young woman she meets while traveling. I admit that I was surprised by two diametrically opposed stories. Thus, we discover her joys, sorrows, challenges, her children, and her whole life until her mental deterioration.

I was quite hooked by the story with the first chapter but it’s true that the backward with the Patricia childhood changed that. It must be said that the religion became a central theme to the story and it’s not necessarily what is the most appealing to me. I always have a little trouble when religion becomes a bit too present and it is true that it put me a little behind. After that, it’s true that the story is not really action packed but it was interesting to see Patricia evolve, to see the different facets she could have, to discover how her children would grow up and become adults. It was also very moving to see the relationship of our heroine with her children, her love and devotion whatever happens.

It was an interesting read, different from what we can usually find. I didn’t really get into the story, but I still had a good time with the whole. It was touching to see Patricia evolve, and changing with the trials in her life.




34 thoughts on “My Real Children by Jo Walton

  1. Because of personal reasons I’ve become quite interested in literature involving the ‘confused’ (or not) elderly and this one intrigues me. Definitely a book I’ll keep a look out for – possibly add to my wish list – thank you for sharing .

  2. “I always have a little trouble when religion becomes a bit too present and it is true that it put me a little behind.”

    Same here Melliane. I tend to shy away from anything that has strong religious undertones, so that aspect of the story would be a bit challenging for me. Still, it sounds like it was a solid read overall!

  3. This one looks really interesting and I’ve actually had it for a while. One of these days I’ll have to read it or something else by Jo Walton, I can’t believe I haven’t yet. When the time comes it’ll either be this one or her Among Others, which I’ve heard a lot of great stuff about. I guess it’ll depend on what kind of mood I’m in. Thanks for the review!

  4. Too bad it wasn’t spectacular, I get why you’re drawn though. Have you read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life? It’s similar to this and better, in case you want to give this theme another whirl.

  5. I don’t mind when there’s religion in a book, movie, song or TV show, but when there’s too much of it I find it annoying. Therefore, I don’t think I would enjoy this any more than you did, so better stay away. ^^ Great review, though!!

    Hey, by the way, have you ever read la bande dessinée «La belle écarlate?» If you haven’t, I REALLY recommend it, even if BDs are not your thing.

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