What Dettol Can’t Fix

Bee Wilson

  • Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender
    Granta, 318 pp, £16.99, March, ISBN 978 1 78378 383 0

In the spring of 1942, Elisabeth Young, a diplomat’s wife living in Surrey, began keeping a ‘register’ of eggs. Each day, she recorded the date and number of eggs laid by her flock of 12 hens, sometimes logging the name of the particular hen who had laid it. She noted whether the eggs were brown or white or ‘brownish’ and any that were double-yolked. At the end of the week, she tallied up the total. She also made a note of hens that were broody and the ones that were moulting. When the very first hen laid its first egg, Young recorded the event not just in the register but in her diary. ‘An active day – but culminating in the breathtaking event of the FIRST EGG!’ Over the course of the next year, Young went on to record 896 more eggs in her register, each one written down in her neat hand in geometrically exact columns.

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