Friday, 1 July 2011

FFB: KICK A TIN CAN by Dianne Doubtfire

The opening line to this 1964 novel rings so true to me.

'Wilfred Kittering's desk was in the back row, which made it easy for him to read Lolita during Religious Instruction.' In my case it was 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'.

Wilfred is a fifteen year old living with his widowed mother who runs a sweetshop in London's East End.
Every weekend, before he died, father and son would go for walks in the countryside. It is something that Wilfred misses. Until the day he decides to catch the Green Line bus and venture out on his own.
He walks along the river where he meets public schoolboy Andrew Rose-Pearson. They form a friendship and end up falling in the water. He accompanies Andrew home where he meets his mother, Carol, who is thirty four and very attentive to Wilfred who returns home wearing some of Carol's husband's clothes.
Back in the East End Wilfred begins a new relationship with a girl his own age, Jill Dennison. A doomed relationship when he returns the clothes to Carol.

Dianne Doubtfire pushes boundaries in this novel. Growing pains are there and Carol latches on to the fact that Wilfred yearns to become a writer. She indulges him by giving him a place to write and buys him a typewriter.
Carol is a well drawn picture of the deperate housewife. No husband and a son who only comes home in the holidays. Wilfred alleviates her boredom and fills her loneliness. On the other hand Wilfred comes of age too quickly for his own good and finds it difficult to understand when Carol finds someone her own age.

A brilliant novel - though a subject that is rather taboo in this new Victorian era.


  1. So, is Doubtfire a (likely?) pseudonym? Shall have to go look her up. Doesn't seem too terribly taboo as a subject, even if the rather common-seeming acting out, particularly of schoolteachers with their teen boy students, is certainly taboo for a reason. Sounds in some ways like DD is a slightly late Angry Young Woman...

  2. Seems like a fairly diverse career, to judge what's available (almost all out of print) from Amazon, for example...with the latest items mostly How-to-Write books...