Patricia Saville (B.1933): Purpose and Audience – Writing Lives

Patricia Saville (B.1933): Purpose and Audience

For my second to last blog post I’ll be briefly talking about Patricia’s target audience and the purpose of her writing. Unlike many of my other posts, this one will be slightly more academic but I’ll try my utmost best to still make the voice of Patricia and her message the primary focus. I hope you enjoy it !

As David Vincent once argued, “autobiographies were founded on the assertion that the whole of working class life, in all its mundane detail, was as real and important as that of any other section of society” (1980, 229). After reading this quote, I realised that no observation could be more fitting when describing Patricia Saville’s story. In a way through the purpose of her autobiography (that I will go on to dissect), Patricia brings together the realities of working-class life.

From near the beginning of the memoir, Patricia uses writing as a form of addressing either family or even a readership outside of academia. It’s almost like Patricia is speaking with the reader rather than merely informing them. Such phrases as ‘nanna’ and the ‘gee gees’ (11) certainly give the memoir a ‘proletariat’ feel and something you would not usually see in a more academic form of writing. Regina Gagnier argues that it’s difficult for working-class autobiographers to “justify themselves as writers worthy of the attention of others” (1987, 338). It’s clear Patricia justifies herself through the originality of her autobiography. She doesn’t feel that her writing should conform to upper-class culture. Her autobiography remains ‘real’ in the sense that its not filled with complex words or phrases. It’s simplistic language as Jonathan Rose argues “reflects the attitudes of the masses” (1992, 48). Furthermore, it’s simplicity is what makes it original. As Regina Gagnier puts it: “Working class writers were by no means dominated by the bourgeois form” (1987, 343). In other words, the upper class writings of her time did not affect nor influence Patricia.

Hannah Webster Mitchell argues that she “hated war” (1997, 27) and how “the idea of men killing each other had always seemed hideous” (27). For Patricia amongst this memoir this also seemed to be the case. “The Daughter I Never Had” is political. For example Patricia describes the bombs as “evil weapons” (20) highlighting her opposition to the violent, inhumane war. This stance is also something Jonathan Rose picks up on. He describes the Burnett archive bibliography lists (which Patricia is a part of) as having “influenced the political consciousness of the reader” (1992, 48). Henceforth one of the main purposes of Patricia’s memoir was to primarily give a sense of realism to the war and through it’s simplicity protest against ‘highbrow’ culture.

In trying to find a purpose and audience for Patricia’s memoir, yet another common theme that persistently crops up is her mentioning of family. It’s crystal clear that family plays a central role in the development of Patricia from childhood into adolescence and adolescence into adulthood. From my own perspective, I would say that this memoir is to be left over to family members. Regina Gagnier accurately points out that the purpose of memoir was to “record lost experiences for future generations” (her sons), “to warn others” and to “teach others” (1987, 342). This is particularly accurate for Patricia’s memoir as she often talks about tough times during the war: “Evacuation and all that” (13) to teach future generations about the war from a first person perspective.

Tense also plays a pivotal role in the purpose of the memoir. When Published Patricia was aged 67 so this could be merely a diary or an autobiography for anyone who cared to read or listen. The memoir could well be read out loud as a story. But whats also of interest is sometimes the memoirs vagueness or unreliability. Jonathan Rose argues of how “an autobiographer (like any other “nonfiction” writer) is liable to forget or remember selectively” (1992, 52). In particular it was the tragic event of her sister’s death that remains vague in Patricia’s memory (9). However the war was something that stayed clear in her mind. As Patricia recalls, “I remember it so clearly I was playing in the garden when the first German bombers came” (9). It’s with this selective memory that the central purpose of this memoir becomes clear; To inform it’s readership of the war. Specifically it’s impact on Patricia and her family. How it broke them up and particularly in Patricia’s case how it shaped them and how ‘real’ it actually was.

Another central theme to Patricia’s writing is her sense of humour. She oftentimes finds the funny side of things even amongst the toughest of times. For example, when Patricia was only 12 years old she “had a pet rabbit for that mysteriously disappeared one day.” Before adding that “we had rabbit for tea not long after that” (21). Not long after this Patricia had a pet chicken but inevitably “she ended up in the pot too” (22). A bad run of luck as you can imagine but needs must! It’s instances like these that bring Patricia’s memoir to life. Seeing the positive amongst negative times. Its also what sets her memoir apart from many others. Patricia rather than telling events illustrates them.

Conclusively, there was the death of Patricia’s sister and the title of her memoir: “The Daughter I Never Had”. Patricia dedicates the memoir to her sister Hilary (as seen below), however the title of the memoir is clearly to something that does not exist. Her having four sons, you could see that the title is somewhat humorous and enigmatic. Overall, the purpose of Patricia’s memoir was to inform readership, whomever they may be, about the realities of both war and working-class life. And the audience of her memoir was not only her family but anyone who cared to listen!

Patricia seated with her friend and her sister Hilary.

Proofread by: Tom Dinsdale.

Written and Published by LJMU Student Brian McCloskey.


Gagnier, Regenia. “Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.” Victorian Studies 30, no.3 (1987): 335-63 Available from:

Klein, Yvonne. (2016). Beyond the Home Front. London: Palgrave Macmillan Limited.

Saville, Patricia. “The Daughter I Never Had”, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4.

Vincent, David. “Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class” Social History, Vol.5 No.2 (1980): 223-47 Available From:

Rose, Jonathan. “Rereading the English Common Reader: A preface to a History of Audiences” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 53, No. 1 (1992): 47-70 Available from:

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