Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss by Alison Ripley Cubitt


Castles in the air is a book of two halves. It tells us the life story of Alison’s mother Molly; the first half mainly using Molly’s own letters to a dear older friend, Steve and the second half a combination of Alison’s memories and her mother’s diaries.

I chose this book because I wanted to read about Molly’s experiences before and during the war as a teenager living in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon and Mombasa and also her life as an expat in Malaya during the Emergency. I especially enjoyed Molly’s father’s log of their trip out to Hong Kong through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal as it reminded me of my 6-week voyage to Singapore when I was 15.

Despite periods of boredom and hard times, keeping ahead of the Japanese invasion with very little money, the early period of Molly’s life is full of interest, but her married life is not so easy and despite, or maybe because of sheer hard work, both Molly and her husband endure considerable unhappiness.

In this memoir, Alison is frank and honest, exposing the rifts and suffering in her family life while also showing clearly how much her mother loved her and did her best for all three children. There are so many “if onlys” in Molly’s life which could have made it so much better or so much worse. An interesting read.