June Ollerenshaw– Granville: A Mother’s Grief (2011)
Thirty odd years on, and the pain, it never goes away.
To outlive, one child is the cruellest thing.
To outlive both is a life sentence.
* Quote from Granville: A Mother’s Grief
This is the debut novel of 74 year old June Ollerenshaw who grew up in Granville, NSW. In Granville: A Mother’s Grief, she shares a personal story of tragedy, grief and loss.
From an early age, June proved to be a survivor and worked hard to get on with whatever life threw at her. June entered the world prematurely, born on the kitchen floor of her family home on September 18, 1936. Her mother Dorothy was advised that she would never bear another child, suffering from chronic heart problems but she defeated all odds and went on to have a third child, June’s brother.
June had a maternal instinct from a young age and always enjoyed being with children and helped care for those in her extended family. She wanted to have five children one day, starting with twin boys. However, at fifteen years old June underwent emergency surgery and had an ovary removed. She was told she would never have children. She was devastated.
However, June’s solid determination which is evident throughout the novel revealed that she would not give up hope of having a family of her own one day. At the young age of nineteen having led a sheltered life June married John, whom she met at a local dance. They went on to have two daughters, Cathy born on 11th June 1957 and Lyndy on 18th September 1958. They were both close in age and had a very close sisterly bond. Despite being in an abusive marriage, June’s daughters were her world and they provided stability in her life- and her in theirs.
As teenagers, Cathy and Lyndy worked together in a bank in the city. They travelled together by train each morning. Cathy and Lyndy always got on carriage number two but on this fateful day they were in a hurry and jumped onto carriage number four. The coroners report stated ‘carriage number two suffered little damage’ and no deaths. However, carriage number one, three and four were demolished resulting in 83 deaths. Cathy, aged 19 and Lyndy aged 18 died on 18th January 1977 on the day of the Granville Train Disaster in NSW.
June’s life was turned upside down. Her children were her world and then that world was torn apart. Her story shares the chronic grief that followed this tragedy. June’s grief prolonged into a deep depression characterised by suicidal thoughts and admissions to Hospital. She could not see a life, a future without her dear daughters. Despite the loyalty of a few friends throughout her lifetime, June experienced this grief in isolation. No one could ever know how much pain and despair that was present in her life. She felt disconnected and in her vulnerability became involved in relationships that were unhealthy and abusive.
After rebuilding her life and career many times her grief was always festering away and she would end up right back to the start in the healing process. It took a long time for June to accept the deaths of her two precious daughters and her story takes us on an emotional journey of her personal grief and despair.
I felt a lump in my throat and queasiness in my stomach whilst reading this novel because I felt like I was experiencing June’s pain with her. Having experienced a loss in my own life I was able to connect with June emotionally without judgement on her life choices. I believe she really is quite brave to share her story.
* Thank you to Boolarong Press in Brisbane for providing a copy of this book to review.