The Family Katt – Jane Owen
“Dark, hilarious, emotional and
simply tears at the heart strings.”
About the Book
Three women, three generations. One war widow, one abandoned wife and one sixteen year old about to go on the pill.
Folkestone, Kent. 1974. Nothing’s much changed here since the war, certainly not men’s attitudes towards women. Can young Kitty break the cycle? Can you she become the independent woman neither her Mother nor her Grandmother could? Or will she end up like them? So badly battered by life they’ve both given up completely. Broken and embittered women, both.
It starts well enough but it’s grim out there. Britain has only just joined the Common Market and the adult world Kitty is so desperate to join is one of three day weeks, striking miners, rampant inflation and high unemployment. None of this is going to deter Kitty though, oh no. In fact she can’t wait to become an adult, to take control of her own life and for a few glorious hours it looks like she might do just that. Can Kitty avoid all the banana skins, real and metaphorical, that will litter her path? How many times can she pick herself up, dust herself off and start all over again? Or will she just end up like her Mother?
Surely one day, it’ll all work out for the best, won’t it?
“Shocking, angry and emotional, this book also manages to be laugh out loud funny in parts.”
Looking for a father’s lost love is a distinctly losing activity but Kitty was too young to know that even though in her mind, today, her sixteenth birthday, she was about to become a fully ﬂedged adult. Just exactly how this extraordinary leap in personal development was supposed to happen overnight was not something that caused Kitty to lose any sleep. Quite the opposite in fact: such was her blind faith in its inevitability that she slept like a baby and had woken on this morning of mornings as well rested as always and possibly even a little empowered, feeling as she did that for the ﬁrst time in her short life she was beginning to actually take control of her own destiny and it felt good. Shame she didn’t remember this feeling, hang on to this moment because it never happened again, oh no. Still, not to worry, for today at least she was brimming with that youthful conﬁdence, the sort you only possess once in your life and then only brieﬂy before life itself starts to chip away at it, pick holes in it, erode it further and further until it all just slides downhill in one big gravelly mess. No, today Kitty knew, she just knew, that her life was about to change irrevocably, good and proper, once and for all.
Well, she wasn’t wrong there. The times they were a changing indeed and it wasn’t just Kitty’s life that was about to change, it was everybody’s. Not that anyone would’ve cared. Despite the post war winner’s euphoria, despite the fact they’d never had it so good and even taking into account a burst of colour and energy in the Sixties that had never really gone truly national, people seemed to be slipping back into a pre war drudgery, a drab world punctuated by three day weeks and power strikes, petrol soaring to ﬁfty pence a gallon, galloping inﬂation, rising unemployment, synthetic clothes. It was a time when luxury goods were the preserve of the rich, when chicken in a basket was the nouvelle cuisine of its day, when hotel breakfasts included tinned grapefruit segments in a stainless steel dish or a glass of bottled tomato juice, when restaurants serving duck a l’orange or gammon steak with a ring of tinned pineapple were considered sophisticated. A time of three television channels, all of which shut down at bedtime after a rousing chorus of God Save The Queen, of telephones tethered in hallways, that had big shiny dials and telephone numbers that were ﬁfty percent place name and ﬁfty per cent digits and that came with a massive six volume set of telephone directories from A to Z. Pubs still closed after lunch, early on a Sunday, and offered little more than pork scratchings to the hungry. Shops still closed all day on a Sunday and took a half day midweek. Local councils the length and breadth of the land were busy ripping out the hearts of market towns and replacing them with pedestrian precincts and multi storey car parks, one way systems, underpasses and ﬂyovers. Despite the valiant efforts of the bra burning feminists of the previous decade, the day to day life of your average woman hadn’t changed that much since her mother’s, or even her grandmother’s day and the number of booze swilling, pill popping mammas was starting to be a statistic for concern. All in all, it was a miserable time when it seemed there was no future, that things would never get better.
There were, however, signs. Granted they were very small signs, easy to miss, signs that would be much easier to see in retrospect, but they were there. Family planning, by which they meant the contraceptive pill, was now available, free and on demand, from the National Health Service. An American fast food chain called Macdonalds had just opened its ﬁrst UK eaterie in London. Volksvagen had just launched a strangely square, boxy new car called a Golf. Bill Gates was just gearing up to drop out of Harvard, Bill Clinton to graduate from Yale and Donald Trump was about to inherit two hundred million dollars. Madonna and Michael Jackson were also turning sixteen, a woman called Margaret Thatcher was about to start effortlessly scaling the top ranks of the Tory party and Britain had just joined something called The Common Market. Oh yes, everybody’s life, not just Kitty’s, was about to change.
“Darkly funny. Painfully graphic.
I was very moved by the conclusion …”
Jane’s first novel, Camden Girls, was published by Penguin twenty years ago and quickly became an international cult bestseller published in many languages as well as being optioned for a movie, twice. She’d already spent many years working in the film business working alongside stars such as Christophe Lambert, Andi McDowell, Daryl Hannah and James Remar before switching to the music business and working for bands such as The Who, Robert Plant, ZZTop and many more.
Her latest novel, The Family Katt, is the moving story of a teenage girl’s downward spiral, all set in Folkestone, Kent, and starting in 1974 up until the marriage of Charles and Diana. Interesting times indeed and a reminder of what life was like just as we joined the Common Market. It also resonates with the #metoo campaign. Poor Kitty, our protagonist, has no role models, no-one to guide her as she steps into adulthood and her desperate search for love leaves her vulnerable to unscrupulous men.
Now happily settled in a leafy corner of West Sussex, Jane shares her life with her musician partner, two horses and a dog and divides her day between writing and riding.