Suz Evasdaughter - the writer of Unwanted on the memoir of her troubled childhood
- Credit: Archant
With Unwanted Etchingham writer Suz Evasdaughter explores her traumatic childhood in Yorkshire, while offering up a story of hope and overcoming the odds, finds Simone Hellyer
The tale of the cruel stepmother is one that we have all grown up knowing. In most cases this is an unfair and outdated cliché, but for Suz Evasdaughter it was all too true.
Now happily living in a woodland haven in Etchingham, East Sussex, Suz’s start in life couldn’t have been more different. Suz grew up in Yorkshire in the late 1950s and 60s, but her happy start in life was cut short at five years old when her mother died from breast cancer. Unable to cope, Suz’s father placed her and her two brothers into a children’s home. Eventually, Suz’s father reclaimed the children and they lived a relatively happy life with their extended family. Everything came crashing down, however, when her father remarried a woman called Muriel and the couple had a child of their own.
In her autobiographical book Unwanted, published this April, Suz details how her new stepmother made her life a misery. Suz was singled out for humiliation and degradation and could not speak to her brothers or father. Padlocks appeared on the food cupboards and the stepchildren were fed scraps, while the new family tucked into hearty dinners.
On why she chose to revisit such a painful time in her life, Suz says: “I felt as though I wanted to revisit my past but from a position of power, as opposed to the situation when I was in it, which was completely powerless and helpless.
“Writing also helped me to be more comfortable with my past and explore what happened from my own perspective. Some people have said: ‘Wasn’t it awful being back in that situation?’ But it wasn’t – it was a kind of investigation and exploration.”
As well as detailing the terrible and traumatic events of her childhood, Suz also takes the reader on a journey of understanding her father and stepmother’s actions. “My mind somehow shielded me from what my father had become and kept him as this special person. As a result of writing the book, so many people have pointed out my father’s complicity in what happened to us and that was something that I hadn’t ever been able to accept.”
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On her stepmother, she says: “I can empathise with her to some degree – she, for whatever reason, needed that control for her to be able to cope with life. But if you’ve got that kind of personality it’s really inappropriate to take on three adolescent children.”
Writing the book also helped Suz build a better relationship with her two brothers and she even reached out to her half-brother, her father’s son with Muriel. The two now have a “brilliant relationship” and she was also able to understand her own mother better thanks to another half-brother turning up out of the blue – the son her mother had before she met her father.
After leaving home at 15, Suz managed to turn her life around and achieve great success – going to university, training to be a nurse, working as an executive at Ford and becoming a successful Ofsted inspector.
Suz is also a prolific traveller, sculptor, writer and has trained in nutrition and psychotherapy. Not bad for someone who left school with no qualifications.
Education, and especially the equality of opportunity for working class children and girls, is something that is hugely important for Suz. “I hope that the book will be an inspiration to people who feel like they’ve been written off by the education system. I want to show that they can reclaim their education. I think that is also why I was motivated to become an Ofsted inspector, to ensure that whenever my team inspected a school we made sure that it was offering the right teaching and learning to all the children, not just the top streams,” she says.
Suz readily accepts that she could have easily taken another path into a life of “drink, drugs and despair”, but with Unwritten she offers a story of hope and overcoming the odds. When asked what advice she would give her younger self, she jokes: “Run away as fast as you can,” before adding: “But, of course, as we know from the girls in various cities who were groomed and abused, the world isn’t always safe to run away to. What that girl really needed was a guardian angel and I hope that the social services system provides that now for youngsters in trouble.”
GOOD TO KNOW:
Unwanted is published by Mirror Books, RRP £7.99