Crystal Jeans was born and brought up in Cardiff. She lived in Bristol before doing first a Creative Writing BA then an MPhil at the University of Glamorgan. She works in a care home, which inspired a collection of poetry about dementia (Mulfran Press). She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2010), had poetry published by Seren Press, and two short stories published by New Welsh Review.
This is a beautiful book. Crystal Jeans writes with such deft economy and immediacy that the voice of the narrator, Crissy, is alive in your mind. Through her childhood and painful adolescence we follow her on a journey fraught with tough lessons in life. She is growing up in Paradise Place in Cardiff, with her mum Catherine, sister Veronica, and jobless dad. From Suki Fisk, with her terrible but greatly entertaining drink problem, to the grumpy, square-faced man who shouts at little girls for touching a leaf of his hedge, and the angry Linda Frost yelling at Crissy in the school classroom, the inhabitants of Paradise Place are all struggling. But however downtrodden they are, Crissys family is further down the heap. Nevertheless, all of the disapproving neighbours have to back off once her mum gets involved Catherine Jones will be charging down the street after them, shouting and roaring like a huge, protective mother bear. This is Crissys mum: lying in bed till three in the afternoon, then dragging on her massive, flowered dress to sit spread-eagled on the couch waiting for her first jumbo Mars bar of the day. Shes utterly without self-consciousness or self-restraint she is fiercely protective of her two girls, but also ready to terrify them for a joke or to make a point. Freddy Krueger is the bogey man living in the woods. Hes also the voice that booms around the room and terrifies Crissy and her sister as they sit watching TV with their mum, until Veronica finds the boom box with the tape turning and Catherine starts shaking with laughter. They dont fit in, so when Crissys parents join the Jehovahs, it only makes things a few degrees worse. Instead of playing in the park or watching TV, the sisters spend their Saturday mornings traipsing round from house to house, squeezed into terrible old dresses, spreading the word. And the social agony continues at school, with Crissy struggling to be accepted. There are the horrors of your best friend turning on you when a third girl attaches herself to the original twosome. All those dagger-like little put-downs are written with such acute observation that we wince as we read. As Crissy lurches into adolescence and beyond she has to reappraise her parents as they move from being simply Mum and Dad to having real feelings and needs of their own, and some of those needs she finds difficult to cope with. Becoming independent and moving on may seem the answer but your mum and dad have a pull which never quite breaks. Crystal Jeans writes with an accuracy and sharpness that slices with razor-like precision through the life of one ordinary but also totally extraordinary girl. Crissy has a wit and a resilience which lifts her above any self-pity or sense of social wrong. Life is hard but also a huge amount of fun and avidly interesting. Lucy Walter It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council