Motherwell by Deborah Orr

Motherwell is the heart-breaking, poignant story of Deborah Orr’s difficult relationship with her mother, and her home town. But this is no misery memoir. There is a lot of humour among the pathos. It feels like she is trying to make sense of her past and move on. It must have been cathartic to get it all off her chest. It is a real shame that she did not live long enough to reap the benefits.  

Having grown up in another Lanarkshire town less than ten miles north of Motherwell, and only a few years earlier than Deborah Orr, reading this book took me right back to what it was like growing up there in the 60s and 70s. She captures the place and time with such attention to detail; it reminded me of stuff I’d long forgotten.

Although set in central Scotland, there is a universality to this story. Her parents, Win and John, do not come out of this well, but you can relate to their inability to understand their clever daughter and how the world had changed. That she got out and made a successful life for herself is testament to her strength of character.

I always enjoyed reading her columns in the Guardian; she had a unique voice. Who knows what she might have gone on to accomplish next, had her life not been cut so cruelly short.