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I requested Barefoot Years to review immediately after receiving an email from Bridget Williams Books about events featuring the author, Martin Edmond. I asked for the book at 12.27pm, and received it as an e-book to read on my iPad at 12.56pm. There is surely a small irony in reading this memoir of simple childhood years on a modern technology so commonly used by children today.
Martin Edmond wants to take you along with him through his barefoot years. He remembers, in this book, his childhood: the homes, the environment. This book intertwines local history with personal, in a wonderful flowing narrative.
“The next place we lived is so replete in recall that I do not quite know where to begin to try to describe it; for me it is the original Memory House and the template for all other places I have subsequently known. Let me take you there.”
He’ll bring you in by reminding you that, “Now – by which I mean then, in the 1950s –”. His detailed and descriptive writing connects directly to your imagination, using his words to guide you on a journey with him to his Memory House.
Edmond’s early years are filled with wonder and excitement around the house. The garden features as the setting for the first loss of innocence: “The garden is also where my father takes me when he has something of moment to say.” He learns the truth about Father Christmas in said garden (something I believe I learned from a TV show) and describes the feeling – “I am not so much disappointed as elated at my entry into a world of adult complicity in the nourishing of childhood illusion.”
As he remembers the women between the two that really caught his eye, Edmonds poignantly pens, “We are, boys and girls both, in some indefinable but profound manner, united; diverse and probably incompatible, we are nevertheless one.”
Every sentence, every page in this book will remind you of your own childhood, no matter where you grew up yourself. The way Edmond pieces together this time in his life strikes a chord with your own early years. My own first experience with wine completely mimics his – “my first taste of wine … a delicious, fragrant white – though it is in fact a pale-yellow colour – made from, of all things, feijoas.”
Barefoot Years is a fragment of Martin Edmond’s full-length memoir, which is to be published by BWB in 2015. This is to be the full story of his childhood years in the Central Plateau. This book serves as a stunning start to what is sure to be a wonderful account of Edmond’s life.
Reviewed by Kimaya McIntosh
by Martin Edmond
Published by Bridget Williams Books