Virginia Barton

Tea-table arguments over a forthright campaigner


Catholic Herald, 12 May 1989


Review: A Mother’s Tale by Victoria Gillick (Hodder, £2.95)


untitledHigh-profile crusaders like Mrs Gillick tend to be seen in black or white – one loves or loathes them. Most parents are, I suspect, in broad agreement with her principles; it’s the way she puts them over that get people’s backs up. It is the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal approach as distinct from the cunning serpent and harmless dove tactic.

She is a woman of strong opinions; and many of them crop up in this book: the superiority of home-made bread, home births and huge perambulators, the iniquity of TV and most of the media.

A family that is always “news” must expect to be hounded by the media – you can’t run a controversial campaign and expect to be left in peace.


The hook contains some sweeping generalisations. To opine that “. . . broadcasters were unassailable. They alone were in a position to dictate to the opiated masses what was or wasn’t orthodox morality . . .” is a partial view of the truth.

Mrs Gillick overestimates again and again the power of the media, and repeatedly underestimates the common good sense of the vast majority of British parents. I resent that.

Reading A Mother’s Tale you might suppose that no-one else, anywhere, ever, raised a voice or made a stand against the ills of modern society. Possibly Mrs Gillick is isolated, cut off from “ordinary” people whose lifestyle and values provoke in her a distasteful scorn. The Clapham omnibus is full of decent travellers, concerned parents, uncles and aunts.


Having said all that, this is a book I would recommend flinging into the middle of the family tea table. It is honest, lively and fun to read. The unorthodox lifestyle will amaze and amuse, even the blasé younger generation. The ups and downs of family life, the endlessly supportive husband and the vigours of a campaign so many decried, are vividly portrayed in an easy style.

From her viewpoint as practising Catholic and loving wife and parent, Mrs Gillick’s comments on Humanae Vitae are straightforward and very convincing. Readers will find much to discuss and argue about and much to agree with. No-one could question her courage.





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