No point being mad without showing it, Verona wrote in her diary and underlined it. “That’s what Mama used to say, anyway,” she tried to comfort herself, as she sat alone in a hotel room in Niles with a selection of her diary entries laid out before her.
Many people had thought that she was certifiable, and for a time there on medication in London, she had questioned whether she had, in fact, lost it. Upon losing a case for unfair dismissal against her employer of twenty-odd years, she had fallen under a spell of writing about her life and everything she could remember.
So stirred was she by these diary entries that she moved from place to place with a briefcase full of papers. She had begun by writing letters – first, to practically anybody who could help with the ensuing industrial tribunal case – and then, to a variety of friends, colleagues, an unnamed lover, politicians, and even to people in the public eye.
Convinced that various figures in her life – her doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists and social workers – have conspired in the destruction of her career, her home, and her health, she has moved temporarily to Deerfield, Illinois, as the companion to a sick and elderly Jewish lady.
It shouldn’t take the reader long to realise that Mrs Pettigrew is having something of a crisis. Her behaviour is erratic, and her mind distracted as she remembers in vivid detail key scenes from her life in England, Jamaica, and now, the United States, where she is currently held up, awaiting an audience with Oprah.
Hidden out in suburbia at The Leaning Tower YMCA, she writes endlessly, fanatically, about everything under the sun. Perhaps we can make allowances for Mrs Verona Pettigrew – she is, after all, trying to make sense of her situation – and what it means to be Jamaican, black, and British in this modern Western world.
Having arrived in America, finally, however, though she still behaved oddly at times, she felt hopeful, confident, perceptive, and strong.
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