Chrissie’s short stories have won competitions, been broadcast on BBC Radio Four, and published in magazines and anthologies. In 2005 she received an Arts Council Grant for the Arts to complete her collection Family Connections’ which was published by Salt in 2007. Chrissie has read her stories at Newcastle and Salford Universities, Sydenham Library, Lewisham Theatre, the Whitechapel Gallery, Manchester Central Library, Lancaster Litfest, Foyle's Bookshop, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and on BBC Radio 4. Two of her stories were highly commended in the creative non-fiction category, chaired by Ali Smith, in the 2006 New Writing Ventures awards; she was also an equal winner in the I.C.A. New Blood short story competition.
Six of Chrissie’s short stories are now available to read online on the Cut A Long Story website, in association with NAWE. You can find the stories via the writers’ page; the writers are listed alphabetically (by first name, not surname):
Family Connections was longlisted for the 2007 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize. It was selected by Lewisham Libraries to be part of a list of books chosen by London Library Authorities from independent publishers; the list - Limited Edition - was promoted in 30 London boroughs as 'London Libraries Recommends' by the London Libraries Development Agency.
About Between Here and Knitwear
SHORTLISTED FOR BEST SHORT STORY COLLECTION IN THE SABOTEUR AWARDS
INCLUDED ON JOHN SELF’S LIST OF BOOKS OF THE YEAR (2017) View List (pdf)
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 EDGE HILL SHORT STORY PRIZE
BLOG POST FOR UNTHANK BOOKS TO MARK REPRINT OF ‘BETWEEN HERE AND KNITWEAR’, APRIL 2018:
On November 1st 2015 Unthank Books published Between Here and Knitwear - a collection of 22 semi-autobiographical short stories .These stories have been broadcast on BBCR4 and published in The Family section of The Guardian, Unthology 6 (Unthank Books), Northwords Now, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Lampeter Review, Wales Arts Review, Cadenza and How Maxine Learned to Love Her Legs (Aurora Metro).
Back cover: These twenty-two cleverly linked stories, written over two decades, trace a life from childhood to middle age. Beginning in Lancashire in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they follow a young girl as she becomes aware of what it means to be a daughter, a sister, a lover and a woman in a family where the relationships are constantly changing. From a disappeared clutch of curlew’s eggs to the last piece of furniture left standing in a home, these bleak and funny stories bolster what is lost into poignant narratives; told with lyricism, economy and wit, they are observed with the unflinching eye of an incisive witness.
Two reviews of Unthology 6 which include comments on one of the longer stories from ‘Between Here and Knitwear’ - ‘Daughter, God-daughter’:
Sabotage Reviews: www.sabotagereviews.com/2015
Quadrapheme Fiction review: www.quadrapheme.com/fiction-review-unthology-6
Reviews of Between Here and Knitwear
'Just finished 'Between Here and Knitwear'. What an extraordinary book, thank you so much.'
Tweet by Jo Maugham QC, 22nd July 2018
'finally reading your book and it’s wonderful. Thank you'.
Tweet by Max Porter, 10th July 2017
'Vvv good book from @Armandii. Clear, carefully unflashy prose. Superb'.
Tweet by Nicholas Lezard, 17th January 2017
'It was a sad day for all of us who like buying books and eventually, sometimes, reading them when Nicholas Lezard’s Paperback of the Week column in the Guardian ended in June after 25 years. But he did offer this recommendation on Twitter earlier in the year, saying that if he had read the book at the time it was published (2015), he would have included it in his column. He would have been right to: this is a sort of life story in short pieces from childhood to maturity. It has a very light touch but is frequently funny and sometimes very moving, particularly in the later sections. I can’t find any Twitter thoughts on this one, which is odd, but it’s a book that stayed with me throughout the year.'
John Self, Asylum Blog, 2017
'I have just discovered that the book I was going to review was not, as I assumed, published this month, but in 2015. So I can’t review it. But I can say it’s bloody brilliant. I can’t remember the last time I read prose so limpid, so carefully unflashy, so exact.'
Facebook post, Nicholas Lezard, 17th January 2017
Helen Dunmore chooses ‘Between Here and Knitwear’ and Helen Simpson’s ‘Cockfosters’ as her two best short story collections of 2015.
‘These twenty-two stories are tough, flexible fibres of Lancashire lives, woven together with laconic wit and warmth of feeling. A mother’s descent into schizophrenic confusion; a father’s rare public tenderness as he comes out in the snow to help his daughter on her Christmas post round; the clichéd parlance of estate agents vying to sell the family home; school crushes and the burn of love between parents at the end of their lives; reading Bunty and combing the hair of trolls in a friend’s bedroom; arguments, sex and raw solitude: all familiar, all seen anew.’
Helen Dunmore, Best Short Story Collections of 2015, Bristol Short Story Prize website, 4th December 2015:
Sunday Times, January 2016
‘there is a contrastingly homespun, provincial English feel to Chrissie Gittins’s exceptional 'Between Here and Knitwear’. Twenty-odd pieces follow her life from 1960’s Lancashire to present-day London, so they work both as vignette-like stories and as chapters in a life-writing experiment.
Also a poet and a children’s writer, Gittins has a superb way with evocative suburban detail and chord-striking experiences, from the coloured chalks at infant school and the LP’s in her parents’ radiogram to her first teenage snog. These candid, sometimes painful stories follow her life through to dying mum, dementing dad and beyond: the surreal-sounding title comes from something her father says when she visits him in a nursing home.
Phil Baker, Sunday Times, 24th January 2016
Times Literary Supplement, May 2016
Chrissie Gittins’s Between Here and Knitwear is described by its publisher as a work of biography or “creative non-fiction”, and on the book jacket itself as “linked stories”. As a reading experience it offers a series of moments and scenes from the life of the narrator; a woman who, a few stories in, is directly addressed as “Christine”.
This is a work written in vivid, economical prose. Some of these pieces have the feel of snapshots from memory; others take on more narrative shape. With the book as a whole, Gittins achieves an unforced and cumulative narrative coherence through progression from childhood via young adulthood to middle age. It is an approach that suits the form of the linked story collection, which can combine this coherence with omission and dislocation.
The opening stories deftly evoke a youthful, circumscribed world, detailing solicitous dolls, the crab-apple tree outside the narrator’s bedroom, and the shop where a verruca is treated. This specificity sets up moments of pleasurable recognition when some details are revisited in later stories, creating a feeling of inclusion in a personal realm. As this world expands through the course of the book, Gittins successfully conveys the charge of deep familiarities and accrued, personal meanings that – welcome or not – develop within a family over time.
Gittins’s approach to creative non-fiction is unsentimental, though she includes revelations both troubling and moving. In one strikingly vulnerable exchange Christine’s father – “eyes filled with tears” – confesses his fear of a heart attack. In another, when Christine’s mother has been hospitalized for a mental breakdown, her father wishes out loud that he had married someone else: “I had plenty of girlfriends. I should have married Olwyn”.
Gittins’s pared language at times delivers an understated lyricism: at others it tends towards a feeling of precis. While the latter might frustrate the reader’s desire to dwell with a moment, it can also be very effective, lending the prose a clipped and light-hearted momentum. In “Bucket”, Christine’s uncle is introduced through a potted history: “Gordon divorced, married again, and had a mistress. He sailed his yacht with his headmistress mistress. He said the best thing about her was that she was silent when they were at sea”.
Gittins conveys not only memory’s tendency to focus suddenly and fully on selected moments, but equally the impulse that works to shape them into the narrative of a life.
K.J. Orr, Times Literary Supplement, 27th May 2016
Lancashire Life, January 2016
‘Written over two decades, these short stories pack an emotional punch. She traces a life from childhood – she attended Heap Bridge Primary, Walmersley Road and Bury Grammar School for Girls – to adulthood, crystallising all the important rites of passage along the way. The tightly-written stories deal with the small events in life making them very profound and memorable. They are at times bleak, at others funny, but always a little haunting.’
Barbara Waite, Lancashire Life, January 2016:
Wales Arts Review, December 2015
‘Short stories more often than not present the reader with snapshots of a larger life. Rather than depicting the whole story, they capture moments, while demonstrating the writer’s ability to use language skillfully and economically. Chrissie Gittins’ semi-autobiographical short story collection does just that. Written over the course of two decades, the 22 interlinked short stories follow the author as she navigates through the different stages in her life. Many of the stories have also been published in The Guardian, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Lampeter Review, and Wales Arts Review.
The collection explores the universal themes of family, relationships, and the roles that each of us take on during our lives. From childhood to awkward teenage years, first relationships, moving away from the parental house and returning to it to take care of ageing parents, the stories pack a lot in them.
‘Stepping in the Dark’ is a moving story as the narrator’s thirteen-year-old self is confronted with her mother’s psychiatric illness, diagnosed as ‘paranoid schizophrenia’. The writing is packed with underlying tension and emotion, as young Chris returns to a quiet house after school, her mum having been admitted. From seeing her mother’s ashen face after ECT treatments, to searching through psychology books in the library in order to determine the problem and solution to her mother’s mental health, the reader can’t help but feel empathy. The story marks the beginning of the transition from being a child to a teenager perfectly. While stories such as ‘Paper’ and ‘A Small Smudge of Blood’ also do this by depicting first crushes, kisses, and sexual intimacy, ‘Stepping in the Dark’ portrays an experience that not every child faces, making it all the more poignant. Gittins’ writing style is economical and sophisticated throughout, even when dealing with topics that are exceedingly personal and private. There is no overwriting. Everything that is needed to know is included, nothing more, nothing less.
The collection explores how our relationships with our parents are often circular, and how some things can only be learnt with time. Chris goes from defying her father’s protectiveness as she encounters boys, to feeling protective over him as his health declines with age. From being unsure as to what to believe when the staff tell her that her mother tried to escape the ward, to finding out the definitive answer many years later.
‘Piercings’ balances humour, sentiment, and a lot of symbolism in a short piece as she takes her mother on holiday to Wales for a week. Now a fully matured adult, she feels fully confident in asking, “Did you mean to kill yourself when you tried?” It is also one of the pieces along with ‘Power of Eternity’ and ‘Flowers of the Forest’ that highlights the recurrent theme of sentimental possessions and holding on to them after your parents have passed away. Gittins has an eye for minute details and laying out complex human experiences straightforwardly. The idea that language does not have to difficult, but accessible, applies to Between Here and Knitwear.
The title can be off-putting for the reader, until the source of it is discovered to be a phrase said by the narrator’s father as he descends into dementia.
“I think about getting a carrot off the floor. We could do with a bit of hardboard between here and knitwear.”
It at once becomes very poignant, working on many levels, depicting not only the loss of a father and the sentiments attached to that, but also arguably the jumble of life and loss itself. It becomes a bigger metaphor for how we navigate through life and how it doesn’t always make sense. A metaphor for how, at some moments, you may find yourself ‘between here and knitwear’, just as the narrator arguably does when she seeks therapy in order to cope after losing her mother, father and then also her godmother.
These stories allow the readers to form a connection on a personal and relatable level, despite their age. There is consistency in the style and length of each of them, mirroring how memories are remembered like a kaleidoscope. While the stories are very much standalone vignettes, they also flow together as sequential chapters, making Between Here and Knitwear a very satisfying and captivating collection to read.’
Durre S. Mughal, Wales Arts Review, 30th December 2015
Cuckoo Review, August 2016
'Poignant, raw and (surprisingly) quite comedic – author Chrissie Gittins beautifully articulates the feminine transition into womanhood, documenting the shifts in relationships and responsibilities that come naturally, alongside this growth.
It is clear when reading this collection that Gittins delves profoundly into emotion. From a reader’s perspective, her honesty is commendable, especially taking into account that Between Here and Knitwear is a semi-autobiographical piece of writing. While every story in this anthology is, observationally, brilliant, one story in particular distinguished itself from the rest, Ruby and Maroon, which documents the experience of a first period. The story is especially poignant, given that a first period is one of the earliest tangible moments that girls consider themselves to be an ‘official woman.’ Certainly (alongside getting a bra) that’s how it was for me. Gittins account of this was so brilliantly relatable – it did ‘hurt like hell’ when, initially, I attempted to use a tampon. The author’s precise use of detail make her stories so accurate and relatable, and it was as a direct result of this that I found the reading experience quite unique.
As Christine, a reoccurring character within the collection, grew, likewise did the stories and other characters around her. I found sympathy for characters where I previously felt none. In the latter stories, when her parents have aged and need nursing, Christine’s father admits that he ‘gets frightened (of) having a heart attack.’ It is moments like these that Between Here and Knitwear really resonates with its readers; such is the raw honesty of Gittins’ writing.
However, as much as Gittins dwells on death towards the end of her collection, so too does she celebrate life. Indeed, readers are encouraged to ‘live for the day and have a dream.’ Gittins’ stories capture the humour in the everyday without compromising on reality or poignancy. Without doubt, these stories are individual to the author, but she also captures moments that are universal to us all. Whether it is the nostalgic ‘keep to the left’ in the school corridors, or her ruminations upon how to approach bereavement, Gittins’ collection as a whole is a triumph.’
Chloe Allan, Cuckoo Review, August 24th 2016
Gittins’ book both intense and intimate
'These 22 semi-autobiographical stories by Chrissie Gittins, who was writer in residence in Shetland 2010 and 2013 and appeared at Wordplay, were written over two decades.
They span a woman’s life (possibly the writer’s) from childhood to middle age, beginning in Lancashire in the 1960’s, and trace some of the awkward, sometimes excruciatingly awkward, moments of her adolescence and transition to adulthood. The episodes follow in chronological order, forming snapshots of a life.
And, her life, like many people, is often a painful journey. From a childhood that appears relatively carefree in retrospect, with more or less happy schooldays, the author (Gittins writes in the first person) suffers the familiar torment of teenage years, the excitement of leaving home and the agony of ageing parents.
The writing is intensely, almost disconcertingly, personal, with the intimacy of a diary. This makes it relevant to women, but might not be so appealing to men (especially as her teenage sexual encounters, quite graphically described, are usually disappointing).
Some of the details could probably have been spared, but the experiences all form the adult woman, who has eventually to take responsibility for her life and that of her parents.
Between Here and Knitwear, a phrase used by the narrator’s father when he descends into dementia, is touching and funny. Gittins writes in a deceptively simple way but manages to convey a lot by detailed observation of everyday moments, strikingly familiar but often overlooked.
Hers is the story of many a household, the progress through life of an unremarkable family with their trivial squabbles, their caravan holidays and their sentimental possessions. It illustrates the human condition, of families touched by highs and lows, who suffer fates regardless of social status.
The book begins slowly, but draws the reader into her world and becomes increasingly compelling. The descriptions of her parents’ last days, and her own responses, are particularly moving.
And that could have been the end of the book – the penultimate chapter about her godmother seemed oddly bolted on the otherwise complete narrative.
Gittins has written several volumes of poetry, both for children and adults, adult stories and plays. Some of her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in The Guardian’s family section and elsewhere.’
Rosalind Griffiths, The Shetland Times, 30th October 2015
‘There is a sparseness of prose that somehow manages to convey a huge depth of feeling and emotion and frequently there is a wicked humour underlying Chrissie Gittins’ words. ...Chrissie Gittins’ ability to convey family relationships and growing up is outstanding.’
Linda Hill, Linda’s Book Bag, 9th November 2015; www.lindasbookbag.com/2015
Also a 5 ***** star review on amazon
‘Curlew, Between Here and Knitwear
This story about a schoolgirl discovering a curlew's nest gave me knots of uncomfortable nostalgia, and I mean that in a good way.
Gittins brilliantly gathers together a handful of scenes from one girl's school life, the largely inconsequential moments that teachers and parents instantly forget but which stay with children for a lifetime: being pushed in the back and making another girl drop her jam jar in which a solitary pea is growing, running into the road to avoid the bully chasing her only to make a car screech to a halt, avoiding going home for fear that somehow her parents will know she's done something wrong. It was all so familiar and brought back memories of various crimes and misdemeanours of my own childhood.
Curlew is both gentle and barbed, comforting and uncomfortable, like most trips down memory lane tend to be.
This is the opening story in this new collection and I will definitely be reading more.’
Rating: **** Posted on November 09, 2015 by Scott Pack on the Me And My Stories website
‘The book is a memoir of Chrissie growing up, and then as an adult who has to deal with a period of her life when she lost both her parents. The ‘story’ is told across a series of short chapters, each discussing a certain tiny incident or exchange.
What makes the book so absorbing is the level of detail packed into each chapter. My favourite was the chapter entitled ‘Piercings’ which told of a week’s holiday Chrissie took with her mum, to Wales. It describes the time leading up to the holiday, where her father has been taken into a home and her mother gets confused with the shopping. The time the two of them spend away is full of small memories – getting her mother’s ears pierced, going on train journeys – but it’s during this time that Chrissie can talk to her mother about more important things, things they’d not discussed before. “The ECT was very frightening.” “Did you mean to kill yourself?”
What this chapter highlights for me is that moment when you realise as an adult that your parents are adults too, and how your relationship subtly changes. For me, the rest of the book – its emotional punches, the mental struggles and the grief that Chrissie describes – all come from that moment where she has to paint as accurate a portrait of two people she loves, and doesn’t want to use a child’s lens to view them with.
I urge you to read this book. If you’re of a certain age, some things will ring as true for you as they did for me (reading Lady Macbeth’s speech out loud in class seems to have been a rite of passage), but there are universal observations for all of us – in how we treat ourselves and each other. While some of the subject matter covered in the book may sound bleak, the book itself is not, it’s an affectionate portrayal of good people and their love.’
Sue Barsby, Books From Barsford, 11th November 2015 www.basfordianwrites.wordpress.com
‘Each story takes a moment - often of little importance in itself but which still marks a changing point in the direction life takes.
The writing style is sparse, economical with words and emotion, but still evokes an echoing feeling in the reader. The stories show the love between children and parents, and that between the parents themselves. My favourites were Power of Eternity and Upright Chair both of which deal with the difficult task of preparing the family home for sale, marking a very definite end of an era. Each story is complete in itself, and can without doubt be read as a stand-alone piece of writing, but I think the power of the collection comes from reading them together from beginning to end, seeing the overall narrative arc, how the relationship between children and parents changes over time, and the responsibility for taking care moves from one generation to the next.’
Maryom, Our Book Reviews, 4 stars ****, 13th November 2015 www.ourbookreviewsonline.blogspot.co.uk
‘Between Here and Knitwear comprises 22 short stories by Chrissie Gittins but they feel more like chapters than individual stories as they flow so nicely from one to the other. I certainly couldn’t stop reading one chapter after another as each little snippet of Chrissie’s life emerges. Each story is so poignant, emotional and heartfelt that at various times I laughed, I cried and I identified with the author.
Chrissie has set out chapters of her life in terrific detail, allowing the reader a glimpse into her thoughts and feelings. She has picked up on things that others might have taken for granted yet will certainly have experienced in their own life, such as reminiscences of her first period, first kiss and first love. I found myself getting quite emotional as Chrissie’s parents’ health was explored – her Mum’s frequent hospitalisations and her Dad moving into a care home. I had really come to care about Chrissie and her family as so much emotion has been poured into this book. As her writing-style is so lyrical, and Chrissie is not afraid to bare her soul, the reader is in no doubt that they are reading a very special book indeed.
Between Here and Knitwear is a frank observation of life and I’m sure that all women will identify with Chrissie in at least one of the stories – I certainly did. It led me to reminisce about parts of my own life, remembering events I thought I had forgotten. This is a book to not simply read, but to experience.
5 Stars *****, and on amazon. Michelle Ryals, The Book Magnet, 19th November 2015 www.thebookmagnet.blogspot.co.uk
‘It's a series of linked stories that chart the life of one woman, Christine, from early childhood to middle age, and the shifts in her relationship with her parents as she grows and then as her parents become vulnerable and aged. The stories are steeped in the kind of physical detail and psychologically acute observations that will have readers exclaiming with recognition, and Chrissie has a beautifully subtle and dry wit.
‘I loved Mrs Marshall. We all did. We wanted to be her. We wanted to be married to her husband and donate our wedding trousseaus to the school play. We wanted a weekend cottage in Troutbeck, and to start our teaching careers in Wales.’
Chrissie read beautifully, and we were all entranced. I read the book all the way back on the train, looking up only once, at Stoke-on-Trent, to see that, without my noticing, it had been snowing. It's a book you'll want to read in one sitting.’
Elizabeth Baines Blogspot, 22nd November 2015 www.elizabethbaines.blogspot.co.uk
‘Unrolling from childhood and deep into adulthood, Chrissie Gittins’ autobiographical short story collection strikes at the heart of a family getting on with the business of living.
From the wonder of a nest full of curlew eggs to the difficulties of finding stockings long enough for her adolescent legs to the quiet sorrows of aiding ailing parents, author Gittins captures the preoccupations of each age and individual with such unflinching clarity that you’ll feel a jolt of recognition, even if you’ve yet to reach the part of life she writes of.
The 22 interlinked stories weave together beautifully to form a heartfelt family portrait, in particular the tales focused on the relationship between Gittins and her parents. At the same time, every story stands alone as a self-contained missive rich with layers of observation. We’re treated to the embarrassment of learning lurid lines of Shakespeare, experience the raw confusion of Gittins’ teenage self attempting to get to the bottom of “why my mum is how she is”, listen in on tender conversations with her father when, as he says himself, he is losing his reason, accompany Gittins through a debate on the disparate weightiness of two apparently identical lemon chiffon cakes.
Gittins has a talent for drawing out from the minutiae of life the tiny, gritty details that breathe life into narrative, while imbuing it both with humour and pathos. This keen eye reveals the grief of seeing one parent battling mental illness early, while another is later eroded by dementia. The cruelty of these struggles is laid plain across the page with a grace that makes you want to read on. As in reality, tragedy and comedy rub together in a way that few writers have the skill to convey. Gittins has been compared to Alan Bennett, and I can understand that analogy. For me though, she shares prowess over the everyday with the likes of Mavis Gallant and Katherine Mansfield – great literary gatherers with the ability to coax out a wealth of insights from painstakingly excavated oddments.
Towards the end of the books there’s a beautifully contemplative section that caught my imagination.
“It was three year since I had buried my own mother. I’d kept all her silver toast racks. In my studio in New Cross I was making pencil drawings of each one. The walls were lined with evocations – shiny ribbed bars welded to looped handles.”
In a similar way, Gittins’ writing is lined with evocations – rescued, carefully polished and lifted up for all to see.’
Judy Darley, SkyLightRain, 24th November 2015 www.skylightrain.com/book-review-between-here-and-knitwear-c-gittins
About Family Connections
These stories trace the fragile and enduring connections between those related by blood, and those not. A gay couple care for a cantankerous
neighbour, a daughter hangs on to the threads of her father’s mind, an anthropologist finds it difficult to leave behind the refugees she has studied. They take an unflinching look at the moments in lives when the axis swivels to reveal insights and actions which surprise and disturb. With crackling wit and a deadpan lyricism the fate of a nonagenarian former channel swimmer is sealed alongside a virginal teenager and a baroque beautician.
Supplied by Gardners Books and available from bookshops and amazon.co.uk
'A wry and moving collection. Chrissie Gittins has achieved that difficult thing - stories which stay in the mind, inviting us to register the world more acutely and relish its tiny details.' Moniza Alvi
'Chrissie Gittins is a real writer with a bleak, accurate and often very funny take on the drab lives most of us lead . Above all she understands the brutal economy you need for a really successfull short story....' Nigel Williams
'I am SO enjoying the stories. Vivid and touching. I've almost finished it now - I read two or three last thing, then one in the morning. That morning read is a sign I'm loving the book.' Suzannah Dunn
'the ones I've read so far are unusual, clever and funny. Some original twists to traditional plots.' The Dove Grey Reader website, 25th March, 2007.
'somewhere between Alan Bennett and Hyacinth Bucket.' Man at launch at the Whitechapel Gallery.
'I enjoyed Family Connections so much - I've re-read most of the stories. It's the polished laconic storytelling - and the way this combines with your subject matter, which is often profoundly sad, even painful - but never
flat, never gloomy, never depressing. You have a real voice and it comes out with the apparent effortlessness which is the mark of finished writing.' Helen Dunmore
'Just wanted to say I've been reading Family Connections and think it is wonderful - very accurate, very moving, very precise. I like particularly the 'unsaidness' of it all.' Judy Kendall
'I'm completely hooked on the short stories - written with so much heart, and delightful turns of phrase', Noël Greig.
'A salty collection,' Sean O'Brien
Family Connections is a staff recommended read at Huddersfield Libraries.
Family Connections is a front of store 'Manchester recommends' at the Deansgate branch of Waterstone's.
Reviews of Family Connections
‘Chrissie Gittins manages to fit 22 stories into her 158 pages; most of them carry an insidiously discomforting charge. The economy of her writing is apparent in many of her opening lines: “The first time I felt a penis in my mouth was in a field on a Friday night.” “At thirteen, Julia wanted her mother to die" – this story is about a girl whose mother is suffering a breakdown. There is irony in Gittins’s title: the collection is mostly about disconnections. She writes about the banalities of daily life, but not for easy comedy. Observing the small things that are significant to people, she shows how her characters are essentially alone.’
Nicholas Clee, The Guardian. 9th June 2007
‘This is a very lively collection of short stories that rattle on agreeably like a good afternoon tea party between old friends. I found no difficulty reading it. There is not a spare word, no unnecessary details. Short, sharp, fierce, nothing pathetic or sentimental. Chrissie Gittins can see both the humour and the sadness of life in one go and not at great length. She looks at the world ironically, dispassionately. … It is brilliant.'
Mary Knight, Tears in the Fence, Number 43, June 2007.
‘Ten of these stories are set in South East London and one of them mentions our very own Lordship Lane. Wonderfully perceptive, unusual and often very funny, these stories are arresting in their deft mastery of language and their frequently surprising take on the everyday world. The collection achieves that difficult thing – making the reader pause and adjust their own focus upon the world. They linger in the mind long after the pages have closed.'
Karen Ginnane, Dulwich Life, June 2007.
‘I’m thinking of taking out an injunction against Chrissie Gittins. Somehow, in the writing of Family Connections, she infiltrated my mind, and my history. She's like a female Alan Bennett, such is the power of her observation. What she has in great spades, is memory - seemingly minor things, she has retained, and in these stories, she offers them up, making me realise yet again that one's personal history is often about minor memories, because those things can hold such a key to context. She is a real 'story teller', is Chrissie Gittins. She writes of real people living real and sometimes uncomfortable lives. She doesn't wrap them in fancy language because they don't need it, and probably wouldn't welcome it. And it's because of that direct approach that her stories work to such effect.’
Zoë King, Cadenza 17, July 2007
‘This is a collection of 22 short stories covering a wide variety of themes. Each one is short enough for a busy person to read in one sitting. Some are sad, some are funny. They all draw in the reader so much that the outside world just disappears. Ten of the stories are set in South East London including Lewisham. This book is on the long list for the 2007 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize.’
Una O'Malley for Lewisham Library Staff Recommended Reads.
'South London has taken to the traditional trademark deadpan Lancastrian wit of poet, playwright and short story writer, Chrissie Gittins. Equally adept, whether the characters are blood relatives or not. Get sucked in.'
London Libraries Recommend, Limited Edition.
'It's rare when you can read a collection of short stories from beginning to end like a novel. Chrissie Gittins is also a poet of both adult and children's poetry as well as a writer of BBC radio plays, and her spare and compelling use of language, eye for detail and gift of dialogue never miss a beat. In "Bates Green," a married woman decides to resume her affair as she chooses between ravioli and tortellini for supper. In "A Smudge of Blood," a young woman's disappointing initiation into love and sex is saved in the form of a cut square of sheet, attesting to her loss of virginity, in "a pale blue jeweler's box along with an old eye tooth and a locket." In "Between Here and Knitwear," the debilitating effect of Alzheimer's on a family is brilliantly portrayed during a Christmas visit to a nursing home. Each story in this volume is a gem packed with a powerful punch.'
***** Amazon.com review: Cybele Sunday (NY, United States), May 10 2007