This book is quite easily one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-warming, a tale of three people whose lives become entwined in their search for the Skallagrigg.
I read Skallagrigg as part of a book club for parents of children with special needs, and although my child’s disability isn’t featured in this novel, it was a delight to read of multifaceted disabled people, people who you genuinely care about, whose lives you feel invested in from start to finish, and who are not always pleasant people. It’s a novel which will open people’s eyes to the discrimination faced by people with profound physical disability, particularly in the early 20th Century, the abuse they suffered, and the preconceptions able bodied and neuro-typical people have, which are often misguided at best, prejudiced at worst.
This book made me laugh and cry, often within the same chapter. The main protagonist, Esther, has a brilliant mind, is full of determination, completely stubborn, and, as most teenagers are, often rude and obnoxious. She also has Cerebral Palsy (“CP”) and relies completely on the support of others to take physical care of her. You feel all of Esther’s emotions with her, particularly her frustration when people assume that she is unintelligent.
I don’t want to write too much regarding the plot for fear of spoiling it for someone who hasn’t yet read it. What I will say is, it’s worth tracking a copy of this book down. It’s no longer in print, which is an absolute shame. If you do find a copy, please bear in mind the book was written in the 1980s when “spastic” was a completely legitimate term for people with CP and do not take offence to it as the word is used frequently throughout. The author’s daughter has CP, and it shows with his completely honest, detailed and unbiased depiction of the condition.