An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother's secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same. After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly's relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding?
Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison.
From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage… to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her. The writer in Alison can't stop until she reveals the story of Molly's past. But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly's seemingly ordinary life? As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother's story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future?
Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, this is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams. We learn not only about Molly, but about mothers and daughters, secrets and love.
A story for readers struggling to come to terms with the trauma of losing loved ones.
Castles in the Air by Alison Ripley Cubitt was published independently on 25 November 2015 and is a family memoir. Alison Ripley Cubitt has written her mother's story, using her letters and her memories.
In her introduction to Castles in the Air, the author explains what made her want to write her mother's story. She talks about one incident that she witnessed in 1967, and how as she grew older she began to question her eight-year-old self. She wondered if her memory was reliable or misunderstood.
Alison's mother, Molly Ripley had kept a diary for most of her life and started to write her own memoirs in 1988. When Molly died in 1992, Alison hoped that she could piece together the story, but in the back of her mind, she was still a little scared. Remembering that day in 1967, and knowing that the truth would be revealed in her mother's writing.
Molly's story begins in 1937, she was eleven-years-old and her family were about to leave England. They were setting sail for the Far East where her father was about to take up an intriguing job offer.
This is certainly a book of two halves. The first, and for me, the most fascinating part is told with the help of journals kept by Molly and by her father Don. The details of their life in Hong Kong, Singapore and later Molly's time at boarding school are intriguing. The family move around, leaving one place, as the war escalates, becoming separated and experiencing difficulties and hardships that young Molly could not have imagined. Throughout this, Molly corresponded with family friend Steve. Readers are only aware of her letters to him, it would have been really interesting to read his replies as it is clear that young Molly is besotted by him. I'd love to know more about Steve's life, and his feelings towards her.
The second part of Castles in the Air has a feeling of sadness about it. The young, vibrant, lively Molly that readers have followed becomes a totally different person as she ages. Life is not easy for her, and she battles many demons of her own, along with her husband's insecurities and illnesses.
This is a starkly honest memoir, and at times it can be quite uncomfortable to read, I imagine that writing this could have been painful for Alison Ripley Cubitt. It is clear that she uncovers truths about her mother that do answer her questions, but also uncover sadness and pain.
An honest memoir and a fascinating piece of social history.
My thanks to the author who sent my copy of Castles in the Air for review.
Alison Ripley Cubitt is an author, memoirist, novelist and screenwriter.
Her most recent piece for The Telegraph was a story on the filming location of the hit tv series Indian Summers. She wrote a screenwriting column for Writing Magazine for nine years.
Other books by this author:
Mosaics 2: A Collection of Independent Women
Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss
Buying a House in New Zealand
Retiring to Australia and New Zealand (with Deborah Penrith)
She co-writes thrillers with Sean Cubitt as Lambert Nagle.
Their books and short stories include:
Fractured (short story)
Find out more about the author and future publications at: