Alone (2007) is an at times
heart-rending, at times heart-warming, and sometimes hilarious account
of her childhood and teenage years in post-war London, and the influences
that shaped her fiction. Her alcoholic, Bohemian parents separated
when she was five, and ever after her life was split between her
larger-than-life father’s flat in the heart of Soho and her
teacher mother’s various houses in overspill estates in Essex.
Although Alone is non-fiction, it is written in the same
first-person narrative style as the Soho novels, and introduces
a range of equally memorable characters, from Vera and Iris, the
pair of ’tarts with a heart of gold’ who help Pip’s
mother through a crisis, through the horse-loving Romany, Raz, and
the Grenfellian dance teacher, Madame, to Dr Kingdom, who attempted
to solve Pip’s ills with pills. It perfectly captures life
in the 1950s, when sheets and blankets were washed by hand, bananas
were a luxury and separation and divorce were shameful events.