‘Maggie’s Day Out’ by Frances Molloy

The comfortable, almost bedtime story-like narration of this story makes its violence more devastating. Family life is a site of drama from the start with “a false report that Maggie had died in childbirth” ironically placed on a par with the mother-of-three going out for the day; “the idea that their mother could voluntarily absent herself from their company, for a whole day, had never ever occurred to them.” The tension and the comedy of Frances Molloy’s style is held in an almost unbearable balance as the children are sent out alone by their father, who rewards himself for feeding them with a quiet afternoon. “Wrapped up in their discovery” they go “searching for treasure” amongst the cornfields while we itch to protect them from every danger, never imagining the awfulness that will mean Maggie “didn’t go away again for another fourteen years.”

From Women are the Scourge of the Earth, The White Row Press, 1998

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