Between Here and Knitwear

Author(s): GITTINS, Chrissie
ISBN13/Barcode: 9781910061251
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ISBN13/Barcode 9781910061251
ISBN10 1910061255
Author GITTINS, Chrissie
Binding Paperback
Date Published 1 Nov 2015
Frequency No
Report Date N/A
Pages 140
Publisher Unthank Books

Customer Reviews

‘Gittins conveys memory’s tendency to focus suddenly and fully on selected moments, but equally the impulse that works to shape them into the narrative of a life.’ K.J. Orr, TLS ‘exceptional … both as vignette-like stories and as chapters in a life-wri Review by Mary Warren
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1) Chrissie Gittins’s Between Here and Knitwear is described by its publisher as a work of biography or “creative non-fiction”, and on the book jacket itself as “linked stories”. As a reading experience it offers a series of moments and scenes from the life of the narrator; a woman who, a few stories in, is directly addressed as “Christine”.
This is a work written in vivid, economical prose. Some of these pieces have the feel of snapshots from memory; others take on more narrative shape. With the book as a whole, Gittins achieves an unforced and cumulative narrative coherence through progression from childhood via young adulthood to middle age. It is an approach that suits the form of the linked story collection, which can combine this coherence with omission and dislocation.
The opening stories deftly evoke a youthful, circumscribed world, detailing solicitous dolls, the crab-apple tree outside the narrator’s bedroom, and the shop where a verruca is treated. This specificity sets up moments of pleasurable recognition when some details are revisited in later stories, creating a feeling of inclusion in a personal realm. As this world expands through the course of the book, Gittins successfully conveys the charge of deep familiarities and accrued, personal meanings that – welcome or not – develop within a family over time.
Gittins’s approach to creative non-fiction is unsentimental, though she includes revelations both troubling and moving. In one strikingly vulnerable exchange Christine’s father – “eyes filled with tears” – confesses his fear of a heart attack. In another, when Christine’s mother has been hospitalized for a mental breakdown, her father wishes out loud that he had married someone else: “I had plenty of girlfriends. I should have married Olwyn”.
Gittins’s pared language at times delivers an understated lyricism: at others it tends towards a feeling of precis. While the latter might frustrate the reader’s desire to dwell with a moment, it can also be very effective, lending the prose a clipped and light-hearted momentum. In “Bucket”, Christine’s uncle is introduced through a potted history: “Gordon divorced, married again, and had a mistress. He sailed his yacht with his headmistress mistress. He said the best thing about her was that she was silent when they were at sea”.
Gittins conveys not only memory’s tendency to focus suddenly and fully on selected moments, but equally the impulse that works to shape them into the narrative of a life.
K.J. Orr, Times Literary Supplement, 27th May 2016

2) ‘there is a contrastingly homespun, provincial English feel to Chrissie Gittins’s exceptional 'Between Here and Knitwear’. Twenty-odd pieces follow her life from 1960’s Lancashire to present-day London, so they work both as vignette-like stories and as chapters in a life-writing experiment.
Also a poet and a children’s writer, Gittins has a superb way with evocative suburban detail and chord-striking experiences, from the coloured chalks at infant school and the LP’s in her parents’ radiogram to her first teenage snog. These candid, sometimes painful stories follow her life through to dying mum, dementing dad and beyond: the surreal-sounding title comes from something her father says when she visits him in a nursing home.
Phil Baker, Sunday Times, 24th January 2016

3) Helen Dunmore chooses ‘Between Here and Knitwear’ and Helen Simpson’s ‘Cockfosters’ as her two best short story collections of 2015.
‘These twenty-two stories are tough, flexible fibres of Lancashire lives, woven together with laconic wit and warmth of feeling. A mother’s descent into schizophrenic confusion; a father’s rare public tenderness as he comes out in the snow to help his daughter on her Christmas post round; the clichéd parlance of estate agents vying to sell the family home; school crushes and the burn of love between parents at the end of their lives; reading Bunty and combing the hair of trolls in a friend’s bedroom; arguments, sex and raw solitude: all familiar, all seen anew.’ Helen Dunmore, Best Short Story Collections of 2015, Bristol Short Story Prize website, 4th December 2015
https://www.bristolprize.co.uk/news/best-short-stories-of-2015-part-5/

4)‘Vvv good book from @Armandii. Clear, carefully unflashy prose. Superb.’ Tweet by Nicholas Lezard, 17th January 2017
I have just discovered that the book I was going to review was not, as I assumed, published this month, but in 2015. So I can’t review it. But I can say it’s bloody brilliant. I can’t remember the last time I read prose so limpid, so carefully unflashy, so exact. Facebook post, Nicholas Lezard, 17th January 2017
(Posted on 13/04/2018)

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