Generation Gap | Sarah Moss | Granta

Generation Gap

Sarah Moss

For a few years, starting when he was about ten, my older son and I used to go to all the plays in each season at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon. We lived nearby. His little brother was too young and my husband was just as happy at home with a book. I’d been dubious about his company at first. It’s a late night, I’d said, and you probably won’t follow all the dialogue, there are very few kids in Shakespeare, even the jokes are quite Elizabethan. I didn’t want to have to leave at the interval because of a child’s boredom. Try me, he said.

The company was working through the history plays, not my favourite – nationalist myths and weapons and crises of masculinity, though of course intelligently done. Watching through his eyes, the way you learn to see the world through your child’s eyes, I saw that I was wrong. It might have been different for a girl, but the plays were giving him words and images for his gender and its discontents. The battle scenes gripped him, partly because unlike most of the audience he didn’t know who would win. The violence shocked him, the brotherhood moved him. The interval ice-cream and the late-night drive home – front seat, watch out for foxes – gave us a new companionship.

We usually had the cheap seats with a ‘partial view’. High stools, peer round a pillar. One evening – my son was twelve – the man sitting behind me put his feet on the back of my seat. I glanced back, irritated, not enough to say anything, not disposed or raised to assert myself and risk a fuss. My son saw my expression, looked around. He turned to the guy and said, excuse me, mate, sorry but your feet are kind of in my mum’s hair? Oh, the man said, sorry mate, didn’t realise, no offence. Thanks mate, we’re good, said my son, who was only that month taller than me.


Image © Annie Spratt

Sarah Moss

Sarah Moss is the author of eight novels., most recently The Fell and Summerwater. Her memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. Her novels include Summerwater, Cold Earth, Night Waking, Bodies of Light (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), Signs for Lost Children (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), The Tidal Zone (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize) and Ghost Wall, which was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2019. She was born in Glasgow, grew up in the north of England and now lives in Ireland, where she teaches on the MFA and MA creative writing programmes at University College Dublin.

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