Eva Hanagan – Playmates

Eva Hanagan – Playmates

Lucy and Biddy, two elderly sisters who once came from Germany to Scotland and have since spent their lives together. Lucy has always cared for the younger one, but now she is suffering from pneumonia and feels that the end is near. In her last hours, she tries to prepare Biddy for the time after she‘s deceased, but Biddy does not really seem to understand. When it finally happens, she tries to ignore the situation at first. She keeps her secret well, even manages to take care of all the financial aspects of her life. But she increasingly feels lonely, especially since she cannot confide in anybody. When young Ginger Mudd knocks on her door one day, a strange friendship develops. However, this friendship will sooner or later endanger her secret…

Eva Hanagan, who only started writing late in her life and died already in 2009, sends us to a remote place where people can lead a reclusive life. There are only few characters in her novel, apart from the sisters, we repeatedly meet a neighbour who is inquiring about Lucy’s well-being, fishy Mrs Trout, young Mudd and at the end of the novel, briefly his father and mother.  The plot is centred around Biddy, of whom I first thought she was a young girl, a bit naïve and ignorant of the world. Only when she started narrating her past did I realise that she must be rather an elderly lady with some limited intellect. Yet, this does not hinder her from being loveable and charming in her special way. It was quite funny to read how her pragmatic cleverness helps her top keep Lucy’s death secret. On the other hand, the scenes in which she longs for human contact are rather sad.

The most interesting aspect however what the friendship between Biddy and Mudd. Albeit the age difference do they well get along and quickly grow fond of each other. Their dance around Biddy’s secret and their mutual feeling that this friendship is precious, too precious to endanger it by any inconsiderate, spontaneous action, was for me the most noteworthy while reading.  All in all, the novel moves at a slower pace which fits well to the setting and its characters. And it is particularly the subtle play on words – such as the neighbour’s name – that make this novel remarkable.