Ida and Alice couldn’t be more opposite. The sisters spent their childhood together and yet they haven’t seen each other in years. Only when their mother dies do they meet in their old home, preparing the funeral and sorting through what their mother left behind.
In Bournemouth, Ida – having left her run-down flat in Camden still hungover – finds her sister – composed, vegan, and with her caring and sweet boyfriend Tom. While Alice is preparing the funeral, for Ida the trip home means being confronted with her past and her mother, who named her after a violet murderer.
Bridie Adair, playwright, had one big success in the 60s, her play Ida. It was written before her daughters were born, and the memories Ida has of her mother are of her drinking. What she has carried with her all her life is the name though, and her deepest wish to be that Ida, the one portrayed by Anna DeCosta.
“Ida had forgotten her voice – shaky, high pitched, and still slightly posh. A softer version of Bridie’s. It was the voice that Ida had worked so hard to drop.
Alice had changed. The mousy fourteen year old was now a slim woman, her wavy hair tied up into a messy bun. Her features were still small and neat, like her da’s.”
Sifting through their mother’s belongings, the girls find out the truth about their mother – and with that, their own family history. And while it is partly about grief of the family and the dysfunctional relationship of the sisters, it is also about the abundance of memories, experiences and influences that make up the facets of one person’s personality.
The book tells three stories: The sisters meeting after the death of their mother, Ida’s childhood, and Bridie’s past and youth. And while it is obvious from the beginning that these stories will tie together and the story has a deeper story line of the exploration of identity, it is not always easy to read. It takes a long time to start tying the pieces together. Reckless, careless, almost 30-year-old Ida, who searches her childhood home for alcohol and pills her mother may have left behind and who picks fights with her sister is hard to empathise, let alone identify with and with Alice’s side of the story left to the very end, she is not a strong enough character to carry the story.
“Her mother had finally died. She walked across to the sink to pee, pulling down her shorts and hopping onto the kitchen unit, which creaked beneath the weight of her. She mouthed the words to herself as she sat with her legs dangling. ‘Mum’s dead. Ma is dead. My mother, Bridie, is dead.'”
What makes you read this book is the urge to see Ida in a better light and the hope for a denoument. And with Ida so desperately wishing to be the character of the play, you do wonder: Who is the Other Ida?