My Real Children by Jo Walton


An alternate history, in which a woman with dementia struggles to remember her two contradictory lives.

The day Mark called, Patricia Cowan’s world split in two.

The phone call. His question. Her answer. A single word. ‘Yes.’ ‘No.’

It is 2015 and Patricia Cowan is very old. ‘Confused today’ read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War – those things are solid in her memory. Then that phone call and… her memory splits in two.

She was Trish, a housewife and mother of four. She was Pat, a successful travel writer and mother of three.

She remembers living her life as both women, so very clearly. Which memory is real – or are both just tricks of time and light?

My Real Children is the story of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives – each with its loves and losses, sorrows and triumphs, its possible consequences. It is a novel about how every life means the entire world.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Genre: Speculative fiction/Historical fiction

Published: 2014 by Tor and Corsair

Source: Library


Both of the possible lives felt real. Perhaps, they were.

I loved how this book showed all the beautiful and ugly bits of life and family. I loved Pat and Bee’s relationship. It was so lovely to see these two women fall in love and decide to have and support children together in a historically tumultuous period. (This book probably had the sweetest portrayal of polyamorous relationships that I have read in a while too.)

On the other hand, in Patricia’s other parallel life, I was horrified by her life with Mark. I remember feeling sick when I tried watching the pilot episode of Mad Men because the contextual sexism was so present and raw. I felt that same recoil when I read those early chapters of her constricted married life, so here’s a potential warning for emotional abuse and domestic rape. I am so grateful to every woman who worked hard to establish equal rights.

Despite the restrictions of her marriage, I admired Tricia because she always held an open heart and a sharp mind. As time went on and the world changed, Tricia grasped onto the different opportunities. She was always honest with herself. These two admirable traits are shared by her other self in the parallel timeline. Patricia’s love for her children in both timelines (whether she was Pat or Tricia) was always this unrelenting thread that spoke true of her character. No matter which timeline I was drawn towards, I admired all the qualities of her character. I think she held two awesome lives. I hope both were true for her.


6 thoughts on “My Real Children by Jo Walton

    1. Among Others has a special place in my heart. My Real Children covers a longer period of someone’s life but both books evoked a similar emotional response from me. I recommend reading Among Others first because it’s interesting to compare how Jo Walton weaves character journeys across different time-lengths in these two books.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This sounds really unusual but also striking and magnificent. Your review was gorgeous, Glaiza, and definitely had me asking questions about this story and some of the elements in it. I really like the fact that you ended up liking/admiring the character in both her lives, since so often there’s a strong preference, or one will be nice and the other life will be awful, so it’s easy to have one single person to root for, and also the fact it shows two unique relationships. That element sounds really wonderful.
    It sounds like it was a good read. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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