Homesick by Jennifer Croft is a tribute to the deep bond of sisterhood – Laura Waddell

This week I’ve been reading Homesick by Jennifer Croft, a tender coming-of-age tale about two sisters, two years apart in age.

The bond between sisters can be strong (Picture: Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The bond between sisters can be strong (Picture: Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Homesick is the latest release from Scotland-based Charco Press, a small independent press who, from an office in Morningside, have made their reputation racking up an impressive shelf of awards publishing translations of contemporary Latin American authors. Regular readers might have already heard me rave about their accomplishments.

Like the first in the Untranslated series, translation diary Catching Fire by Daniel Hahn, Homesick is a book authored by a professional translator; Croft is known for translating, among others, the work of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk from Polish to English, including last year’s epic The Books of Jacob.

Homesick is Croft’s second novel. Awards to one side (for now, it seems only a matter of time before Charco lands their next Booker International shortlisting), it’s great to see a small press really flourish while contributing to the health of the literary translation ecosystem, from which generally comes much cared for, high-quality, horizon-expanding books.

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In Homesick, big sister Amy devises a secret language of symbols to share with younger sibling Zoe. “She makes Zoe practise drawing the symbols for dog and home and mom and dad and grandparents and hungry and thirsty and Cruella de Vil and Garfield and Raggedy Andy and Target and radio. The symbol for dinosaurs is a dinosaur because Amy can’t think of anything better.”

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Amy is frustrated when Zoe is too young to follow on, their differing ages a barrier between them.

Through such sensitive, often humorous vignettes of Amy and Zoe’s pre-teen lives, Croft builds a picture of a small, shared world and how it expands to encompass changes big and small, challenged when Zoe takes ill with a frightening series of strokes or later when Amy heads off to college to study languages at an unusually young age, her picture appearing in the local paper emblazoned with the word Wonderkid.

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At this point, I brace in protectiveness as circling young men eye the girl up and hand her drinks at parties, and later again, when Amy comes to terms with the adult fact of a tutor's death.

Homesick is a tribute to the deep bond of sisterhood: how, over years navigating life, it stretches apart and snaps back.

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