Home Life Four by Alice Thomas Ellis - review by Joan Smith

Joan Smith

After The Bomb

Home Life Four


Duckworth 169pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

I have never encountered any difficulty in responding to the question ‘where were you when President Kennedy was shot?’ On my knees is the answer, trying to get the sick out of the carpet – the eldest son having mastered the art of the fast crawl. It was that balmy time before experience triumphed over optimism, a time when I still believed you could get sick out of a carpet – not long afterwards I realised that the thing to do is grind it in as fast as possible with your foot, then nip upstairs to the bathroom to practise assuming an expression of angelic innocence. Forewarned is forearmed, and you can bet your last dollar (if you should happen to have one, and I don’t myself believe in this age of paper money that many people do) that before the evening is out someone – or more likely Someone – will have remarked on the unusual pong, a cross between over-ripe Stilton and something the cat brought in some days ago and hid behind the sofa. Hey ho; such are the lessons life has up its sleeve for those whose households embrace animate beings under the age of 12 – and I include here not only sons and daughters but that endlessly sick-prone mammal, the domestic cat.

I rarely go out in Society but, finding myself seated next to David Frost at dinner the other evening, I regaled him – I cannot quite remember why – with this account of my activities on the night of the president’s unexpected demise. I had hardly finished speaking before Someone,

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