I was recently at a writers’ group and shared the fact I’m writing a new novel with a theme of bullying. I was recommended this book by a local author which concerns bullying and started it a few days later.
The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir follows a young girl from primary school right through to adulthood. At the beginning of the novel she’s about to call into a chat show which is discussing bullying. When she eventually does phone she claims that her school bully nearly killed her. We then go back to the past where she’s roughly eight-years-old and follow her through the years until the point where she nearly died. The novel then jumps forward again to when she’s an adult.
Biddy is raised by her father as her mother abandoned her when she was an infant. Her father is emotionally absent and as Biddy has no other family and no friends at school she has no-one at all. She is left alone at school by teachers and students and has no problems until primary-six when a new girl, Alison, joins her class. Alison immediately singles Biddy out and gives her a nickname, bloody weirdo. From this point on the bullying is relentless and gains severity with each passing year. Biddy is constantly on edge, never knowing what Alison and her cronies have in store for her on any particular day. She can handle being shunned by everyone, but the incidents of active bullying are just too much.
Biddy doesn’t tell anyone what’s going on because there’s no-one to tell. She has no one and virtually nothing, except for a love of drawing. Biddy and her father co-exist amiably, but he never asks her anything abut her life and since she is crippled by an inability to say much, she carries her secret alone.
The novel was incredibly sad and while it wasn’t brilliantly written, the characterisation and plot were excellent. I could hardly put it down for any length of time as I was so eager to make sure Biddy was okay. I genuinely cared for her safety and felt unbelievably sad for her. Her teachers, peers and neighbours are deplorable. All I wanted was for Biddy to finally have someone and be okay.
There’s a nice twist towards the end that I really enjoyed and which brought the novel to a very satisfying conclusion. It's quite a claustrophobic novel and is largely just Biddy, but it was excellently done. This is a novel that deserves to be read by all.