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Alison Fell: Every Move You Make

June Guthrie, the heroine/narrator of this novel, is a divorced Scottish woman who has moved to London with her son, Andrew, to work on Womenright, a women’s magazine. All sorts of exciting things are happening in the counter-culture when she arrives in the early 70s. In particular, women’s issues are coming to the fore but there are also squats and evictions, occupation of the gas company’s premises, fighting the Tories and, of course, drugs. June gets very much involved in many of these issues, particularly women’s issues. But what this novel is about is how she has far more difficulty in moving with the times as far as her relationships go.

There are three men in her life (apart from her husband who is more or less out of the picture when this story starts and, of course, her son Andrew). The first who is Phil who gets arrested and finally imprisoned when they occupy a gas board showroom and he assaults a policeman. While Phil is clearly committed to the cause – June first meets him when he is on a hunger strike – it is clear that he is not prepared to make any commitment to her. Jed is just sort of a filler, between Phil and Matt and poor old June cannot really decide what to do with him. Matt is the boyfriend of her best friend, Vi. When Matt and Vi drift apart, June is reluctant to move in, despite Matt’s insistence. In the meantime, Vi has moved on to Marshall, Matt’s best friend (it sounds sordid but it really isn’t – just messy). But Matt wants to control June and she – weakly – resists. She wants to be with Matt but she is not prepared to give up her freedom for him.

In short, this novel is about commitment – the complications it causes, how different it is for men and women and how it might work in some parts of your life and not in others. June is given glimpses of various alternatives – the stable relationship, lesbianism, asexual political activism – but ends up alone and sick with just her son. The message is clear – commitment is difficult and it is particularly where men are involved. This is, of course, an oversimplification of a novel which is about relationships and commitment and the difficulties of both. Fell gives us a fascinating picture of London in the 70s when change was in the air but, from inside, it is clear that the change is small and difficult. My only question is why didn’t she go to a Siouxsie and the Banshees gig?

Publishing history

First published 1984 by Virago