Book Review: Grandzilla, by Lisa Williams

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Grandzilla.JPGGrandmothers are on the whole these days neither old or little. Most of us are a lot younger than perhaps our own grandmothers might have been. Tessa hates hers and has therefore dubbed her Grandzilla. It is 2015 and her beloved grandfather Ed has just died, making her grandmother even more of a monster. Tessa had a close relationship with her late grandfather and during her grieving, she hits out continually with mean-spirited comments.

Her grandmother Tillie, though, has her own secrets. Tessa is of the generation that thinks nobody old can possibly have been an activist. The next thing we know, Tillie’s cousin Dawn turns up on her doorstep. ‘Notorious Terrorist sent home to die’ screams the news headlines. Dawn is dying of cancer.

Dawn had been serving a life sentence in a German prison. She was part of the committed terrorist attacks by the UF, a far-left militant group active 1967 – 1984 in what was then West Germany. Dawn was supposedly the mastermind of the 1968 kidnap of banker Dietmar Kriegbaum. She eluded capture after a shoot-out with police when one of their officers was killed. She managed to stay off the radar for three decades after fleeing Germany in 1970 to Edinburgh in Scotland where she worked as a pharmacist’s assistant. Dawn was captured in 2002 when her neighbor attended a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and saw a reproduction of an old wanted poster with Dawn’s picture on it, as part of the play Revolutionary Disorder. She called her in, and Dawn went to jail.

Turning up on Tillie’s doorstep, Dawn wants to make peace with her cousin. Meanwhile Tessa works briefly at Betta-Mart, where she meets Todd and Cal who are part of a protest movement. Tension is high around the streets with police, and protesters clashing. Tessa gets involved, thanks to her friendship with Todd and Cal. Riots and violence become a shared experience between she and her grandmother,  bringing the two very different generations together.

This is a story that will resonate with most of us as we have seen many times on television protesters clashing in the USA and other countries around the world. Most protests involving violence are around race or religion, and this was fertile ground to explore the relationship between two generations.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

by Lisa Williams
ISBN 9780473448486