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Submitted Literature

Broken Biscuits

By Liz Kettle


Liz Kettle's interestingly told narrative focuses on 2 interweaved stories. Jodie is a young woman trying desperately hard to fit into society after 18 years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, while her eccentric, compulsively hoarding and increasingly senile grandmother - 'this skinny Roswell alien with the hooky claws' (233) - (who tells her story backwards, from the time of her admission to hospital) is struggling to stay out of institutional life. Jodie binge eats, struggles with pseudohallucinations and life in general, becoming a 'revolving door' admission - demonstrating sharply the need for early intervention and social rehabilitation to prevent young lives becoming lost in the system.

This novel jarringly explores the impact of generations of trauma, the hereditary nature of subsequent mental illness and the struggle that faces services users every day. 

Key Themes:

  • Carer Issues
  • Dementia / Alzheimer's
  • Isolation
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

1 - "Dr Hassani says I'm not ill at the moment, I'm just lonely. I should go out more. Meet people. Make friends. Take up an activity. Have I ever thought of photography, or pottery, or learning French? What about flower arranging Jodie?"

8 - "The day they took her into hospital she didn't want to go. she liked her flat; it had everything a person could possibly need. She had it just the way she wanted it. She knew where everything was. When she remembered. Sometimes she forgot."

9 - On Agnes' set of 24 miniature drawers:

"Twenty-four draws, each with something worth keeping. [...]

Three along, four down was toe nail clippings. Grey lumpy crescents tipped with pale yellow in a range of different sizes and collected over a period of probably fourteen years. Guest soaps, usually wrapped and all with lingering scent, were in five along and four down, next to the bottom corner draw, six along, four down."

149-150 - "Still, I got sympathy and a wodge of counselling that first time, although it was still a bit wham bam thank you mam and out you go.

The next time I lost it, there seemed to be a spot less of the old sympathy. More pills, less talking, I'd say. The time before last, mind you, the unit was full and they had to put me in a private clinic. It had flowers and new carpet. I was out of there pretty sharpish. But this time they just look sick and tired of the sight of me. But maybe I'm just being paranoid."

220 - "The hollow shifting sand feeling deep in my tummy started when I was four and stayed with me all my life: one more thing that's made me the woman I am today. Multiple bereavement, accidents, heredity all helped. A night alone in the dark, clinking beetles and the need for food to calm myself clinched it."

Reference: Liz, Kettle. 2006. Broken Biscuits. Penguin, 2007


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Tuesday 6th October 2009