Ruth Henderson has moved back in with her parents – something she swore she would never do, especially not at the age of thirty-three. But in the face of the mountain of debt left by her late-partner and the fact that her teenage daughter, Maggie, is expressing her grief through acts of delinquency, there was really only one option. Returning to a house Ruth swore never to set foot in again is bad enough. Add to this an estranged father, whirlwind mother, and David – the boy next door who broke her heart – and it is little wonder Ruth can barely make it out of bed. But then, reunited with her old friend Lois, Ruth is persuaded to go along to a monthly girls’ night. Here she meets a bunch of incredible women and for the first time since leaving home at eighteen, Ruth begins to make some genuine friends. She also has her first ever date – with the charming Dr Carl Barker. However, after a disastrous dinner, and a fraught Maggie still struggling with her father’s death, Ruth promises her daughter she won’t go out with any other men. A promise she quickly regrets when David, the boy next door, asks her to dance…
As part of the official 'I Hope You Dance' blog tour I asked Beth to touch upon the inspiration behind the Mother-Daughter relationship in her novel.
“The mum's not me.” My mum told me, after reading I Hope You Dance for the first time. A valid comment, given that the story is set in my home town, on a street uncannily similar to the one my mother still lives on, and it contains some themes our family knows all too well.
No, Harriet is not my mum. But perhaps the reason Harriet is such a rampant baker, is because for me, baking and cooking are so wrapped up in what a mother is. When I picture my mum when I was growing up, it is mostly in the kitchen. And I'm quite sure that in years to come my own children will say the same thing about me.
Mum didn't spend actually spend that much time in the kitchen. She worked as a teacher. She loved walking, gardening and reading (she still does). But it was in the kitchen that I felt most like her daughter.
There, in my little apron, often standing on a kitchen chair to reach the worktop, she taught me how to bake, and cook. She passed down the cake recipe from her own mother, so that, like her, I have it memorised. Showed me how to adjust the flavour by adding cocoa, or coffee, coconut or lemon juice, so that by the time I reached secondary school I could make a whole range of different cakes without a recipe. We cut out scones, brushing with milk to turn them golden. Rubbed flour and butter into crumble, rolled out pastry. Weighed, dusted, stirred, chopped, tasted.
I listened, and learned, and made countless mistakes and a whole lot of mess, but it felt as though in those times together, she handed down the wisdom from generations of women. This seemed important. An essential ingredient in our family recipe.
After leaving home, I initially baked much less. As a student, I did save a fortune by cooking huge batches of horribly dry Cornish pasties that kept me going for days (partly because I could only swallow a few mouthfuls at a time). But the autumn after I graduated, when unexpectedly pregnant, I felt too sick and tired to manage anything much more than a packet of noodles.
At twenty-one, I felt clueless about how to be an adult, let alone a mother, but I knew that whatever type of mum I turned out to be, I would teach my child how to produce the kind of food that comforts and nurtures, that cheers our souls. That essence of home, carrying the smells that linger in our memories. I would pass on love with every lick of the bowl, like my mother did to me. My child and I would share the joy of creating something wonderful and heart-warming together. The secrets to rosy cheeks and bright eyes.
I imagined long, lazy Mediterranean style lunches, Christmases baking gingerbread cookies, coming home from the park to toast crumpets in autumn, or churn home-made ice-cream in July…
The truth, initially, was far from the soft-touch montage I dreamt of. The reality of working long days to pay off student loans then picking up my daughter and taking the bus home from nursery. The hour long walk to the supermarket with a baby in the dark. I cried on her first birthday when, too busy working to bake, I`d had to buy a cheap factory sponge cake. As if she even knew, let alone cared.
But we got there. And for many years I taught my daughter the wisdom of my mother's kitchen. By secondary school, she too could whip up a cake without a recipe – although she prefers brownies. When she's not feeling great, I hear her chopping in the kitchen, making soup. And she now teaches her little cousins, helping them balance on a kitchen chair while they stir the batter, letting them know when they can lick the bowl.
I have made mistakes as a mother, often muddled through without a clue as to whether I'm doing the right thing. But in this, my one, small ambition when I started the adventure of parenthood, I am triumphant. And I hope that as my daughter soon moves out into the world, to her own kitchen, that when she thinks of home, she will picture the hours we spent, shoulder to shoulder, as I passed down the gift from the generations of women before me. In every recipe, that essential ingredient: her mother's love.
After studying Biochemistry at university, Beth initially worked in cancer research, and then spent ten years teaching antenatal classes, before giving it up to follow her dream of becoming a writer. She is a passionate communicator, regularly featuring on BBC Radio Nottingham, and is part of the national leadership team of the women`s network Free Range Chicks, which gives her ample opportunity to organise events that include two of her favourite things – food and dancing. She lives in Nottinghamshire (where she grew up) with her husband and three children. She blogs on her website at www.bethmoran.org
You can catch up with the rest of the blog tour here:
You can read my review here.