How does a woman end up living alone, in a vermin-infested shed with no electric or heating at a deserted crossroads in Penzance?
Catrina Davies answers this question in her second book, Homesick. However, what might sound like a story of slipping off the edge of society is actually a funny, lyrical, deeply relevant and life-affirming story of finding freedom on your own terms, resilience and circumnavigating the systematic problems you face if you are poor and without a home of your own.
Davies beautifully narrates her journey from an unsustainable, unstable and unaffordable shared house in Bristol to creating a real home of her own in the shed, which once served as her father’s office – the only thing not repossessed when he went bankrupt.
Homesick is an immersive book, like sitting down for a long catch-up with an old friend, and Davies has a real skill for taking the reader and pulling them along with her through the challenges, the cold and fear and frustrations of trying to carve a place for yourself while clinging on “with your toenails”, and also the joy of nature, of small kindnesses of strangers, of hard work and hard-won comforts.
Particularly admirable is Davies’ self-awareness. There is no indulgence or rose-tinted romanticising here – she is as unguarded about her own flaws as she is unvarnished about the state of housing welfare and consumerism that led her to her shed, her father to bankruptcy, her mother to the constant fear of landlord visits and eviction from her one-bedroom flat (all that she is able to rent because of bedroom tax, despite their extreme scarcity).
Davies also acknowledges that she is privileged to be able to make these choices, that she might have made others if she’d had more money and less desire to do the things she loves and that many folks get those choices