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Sarah Lipton-Sidibeh

Sarah Lipton-Sidibeh

Sarah Lipton-Sidibeh is the best person to write this book because she has written much fiction: three volumes of short stories, three volumes of poetry, a play and film scripts.

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A Novel

The drama, trauma and deceit experienced by a group of tenants who inhabit a dilapidated house in London in the 1970s.

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Literary Fiction
50,000 words
100% complete
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'14 Bensham Grove' is set in the 1970s. It focuses on the lives of the tenants who inhabit 14 Bensham Grove, a dilapidated house. Jennifer, the protagonist, reminisces of the period in her life when she lived in the house. She formed friendships with some of the tenants and she began to know of their lives. Jennifer's friendship with Tracy, the cockney tenant, was particularly strong. Some of the other tenants were malevolent or dysfunctional. Mrs Jeffreys practiced witchcraft and Ray Jenkins abused his wife mentally and physically. Jennifer perceived the landlord as a grandfather figure but he isn't as nice as he seems; when his sister stayed with him, he forced her to sleep in the cellar. Jennifer's parents had a bad relationship and she had to cope with the trauma of her mother's nervous breakdown.

Eventually, a fire destroyed the house. The tenants left the property, settling in other places. The house was renovated and it became a nursing home.

Jennifer obtained a summer job at the nursing home which was once 14 Bensham Grove. When she went to the interview, she was shocked to see that one of the residents is Mr Henry. He is now relying on care in the place he once owned.

Jennifer had been corresponding with Tracy who had obtained work as a Beauty Therapist on a cruise ship. Tracy told Jennifer that she will be returning to London; she meets Jennifer once in London. Tracy is pregnant and lives in a council flat in Battersea. Jennifer tells Tracy that she wants to go to university to study for a degree in English. Although Jennifer and Tracy will have a very different future, they have a strong friendship which was first formed at 14 Bensham Grove.  The girls talk nostalgically of their time at 14 Bensham Grove.


Part One: 1973.

The novel begins in the summer of 1973 when Jennifer and her parents, Edward and Sylvia Ceesay,  move to 14 Bensham Grove. Jennifer gives a vivid description of the gloomy house; this sets the scene as the house is the place where all the events will take place. Jennifer first comes into contact with Tracy who she will form a strong friendship with. 

Jennifer first meets Mr Henry, the landlord. Mr Henry is one of the characters central to the story as one element of the sub-plot is abuse behind closed doors: Mr Henry forces his sister to sleep in the cellar and a fire starts there which destroys the house.

Jennifer is introduced to Mr and Mrs Jenkins by observing their interaction while looking through their kitchen window. This is the first conflict that Jennifer witnesses. It causes her to experience her first nightmare. 

Another of the tenants, Celia Jeffries, is introduced to the tenants. It provides the background as to why Celia hates children and why she always ignores Jennifer. 

The conflict between Jennifer's parents is exposed over their differing parenting methods. Also, the antagonistic relationship between the Johnstons, who live opposite Jennifer and her parents, is revealed.

The reader is introduced to Billy Ominira, a student from Nigeria. There is conflict between Billy and Mr Jenkins regarding Billy's food. This exposes Jenkins' ignorance and racism. The poor relationship between Jennifer's parents is exposed. The conflict between them regarding parenting precipitates Edward to put a knife to Sylvia's face. This precipitates Sylvia's nervous breakdown.

The reader is introduced to Marjorie Henry, Mr Henry's sister. Henry forces his sister to sleep in the cellar; this is the foundation of the sub-plot of abuse behind closed doors.

Jennifer befriends Christine Jenkins; her husband was evicted because he attacked her. Jennifer's perception of Mr Henry as a virtuous grandfather figure is shattered when she sees him with a prostitute. Jennifer sees Mrs Johnston outside a pub drinking. Mrs Johnston has reached a crisis in her life because Mr Johnston has died. Jennifer befriends Mrs Johnston and becomes her agony aunt.

Edward's draconian attitude towards Jennifer is exposed. This explains why there is a poor father/daughter relationship. Mrs Johnston invites Jennifer, Sylvia and Christine Jenkins for a picnic in the garden. When the picnic is over, Jennifer peers through the window of Mr Henry's extension. She sees a person whose face is covered with a mask. The person's hands are in handcuffs. Jennifer is made aware, of the first time, of abuse behind closed doors.

Laura, Mr Henry's niece, arrives from America. She's going to stay with her uncle for a few months; for this reason, Mr Henry forces his sister to sleep in the cellar because he doesn't think there's enough room for the two women in his flat.

When it's Jennifer's fourteenth birthday, she gets drunk for the first time. The conflict between Jennifer's parents intensifies because Edward wants to belt Jennifer but Sylvia tries to prevent him from doing this. Edward bans Jennifer from seeing Tracy because he thinks she's a bad influence, however, Jennifer rebels and secretly arranges to see Tracy.

The last chapter of the first part is Christmas 1973. On New Year's Eve, Edward goes away until January 2nd 1974. With Edward absent, Jennifer is free to go to Tracy's New Year party. The other tenants, except for Celia Jeffries, are present. The night ends with fireworks in the garden. Jennifer discovers that Mrs Johnston has attempted to commit suicide; she overdosed on sleeping pills. The ambulance is called.

Part Two: 1974

The new year begins with power cuts. The house looks even gloomier as the lights in the hall can't be switched on. Also, Jennifer's parents have to light candles. Also, it is the beginning of the 'three day week' so Sylvia is at home with Jennifer more. Edward continues to work a five day week.  

Mrs Johnston is recovering in hospital and she's receiving therapy for her attempted suicide. The relationship between Jennifer's parents deteriorates further and Sylvia has a nervous breakdown. The breakdown is a pivotal turn in Jennifer's relationship with her father: it gets worse. Jennifer drinks heavily and she spends more time with Tracy. When Edward sees Jennifer crying loudly when she looks at a photograph of her mother, it leads to a positive change in him; he reveals a sympathetic aspect of his character and he becomes closer to Jennifer.

One evening, Jennifer discovers Celia Jeffries dead in her flat. She sees books on witchcraft and wax dolls stuck with pins. She realizes why she had nightmares and difficulty breathing.

Marjorie Henry is sleeping in the cellar and she feels distressed. One evening, Marjorie falls asleep with a cigarette in her mouth. The lighted cigarette falls on the floor where petrol has oozed from a can. The house burns. Jennifer phones the fire brigade. Marjorie Henry is dead.

Part Three: 1975

The tenants are temporarily housed at a small hotel. Billy tells Jennifer he's returning to Nigeria because of racism, the poor climate and the expense of studying in England. Mrs Johnston moves to a village in Sussex. Christine Jenkins goes to live with her aunt in Cornwall. Mr Henry goes to America with his niece. Tracy informs Jennifer she was offered a job as a Beauty Therapist on a cruise ship. When Jennifer visits Sylvia in hospital, she's informed that her mother will be discharged and provided with a flat in Balham. Jennifer lives with her mother. Edward lives with Shirley who he'd been having an affair with.

Part Four: 1976

Jennifer passed her 'O' levels well. She applies for a summer job at 'Ryecraft Nursing Home.'  She obtains the job. When she attends the interview, she is shocked to see that Mr Henry is one of the residents. She realizes that the dreams she had were of Mr Henry in this nursing home. A nurse tells Jennifer that Mr Henry's niece didn't want him living with her anymore when he was diagnosed with 'Alzheimer's Disease.'

Jennifer has been writing to Tracy who she hasn't seen for ten months. In a letter, Tracy states that she'll be returning to London.  When Tracy arrives in London, she visits Jennifer. Tracy is pregnant. She is not in a relationship with the baby's father. She tells Jennifer she has been given a council flat in Battersea. One evening, Jennifer visits Tracy. They listen to music and Jennifer tells Tracy about Mr Henry being in the nursing home of the place he once owned. Also, Jennifer mentions that Celia Jeffries was harming her through her use of witchcraft. The girls talk nostalgically of 14 Bensham Grove and what they hope for the future.


Sarah Lipton-Sidibeh, BA Honours, LLCM, FRSA, was born in London, England. She has written three volumes of short stories: 'A Journey into Fear and Fantasy,' 'Psychological Tales' and 'Crossing Time.' In the 1980s, Sarah's short stories, 'The Reincarnation' and 'The Ordeal' were broadcast on LBC Radio's 'Through The Night' programme. Sarah read a selection of her short stories and poetry on 'Resonance FM' in September 2010 and on 'Omega Radio' in March 2011. Sarah's short stories, 'The Sanctuary' and 'Femme Fatale,' were published in the online magazine, 'Blood Moon Rising,' in January and April 2012.

Sarah has written three volumes of poetry: 'The First Collection,' 'Poems: Social, Satirical and Political' and 'The Seasons, Nature and the Environment.' Her poetry has been published in numerous anthologies. In the 1990s, Sarah received an award from 'The Poetry Society' in England for some of her poetry. Also, she received commended and honours certificates for some of her poems at 'The Richmond Music Festival,' England. Sarah's poem, 'Stagnation,' was shortlisted in 'The National Anthology Poetry Competition' in 2005. Her poem, 'Wishful Thinking' was printed in 'The Poems in the Waiting Room' pamphlet in 2010. These pamphlets are distributed to hundreds of doctors' surgeries in Britain. Sarah was The Featured Poet in 'Bareback Lit Magazine' in October 2012.

Sarah has written a play entitled 'Revenge,' a children's book called 'The Spell,' film scripts and song lyrics. She was awarded a commended certificate for her song, 'I Wish,' from 'The United Kingdom Songwriting Competition' in 2016. Sarah has written two educational textbooks, 'Beloved: A Critical Study' and 'Understanding Lord Of The Flies.'


I would like to give interviews on the radio and broadcast an extract from the novel. On Friday 29th June 2018, I will be reading a selection of my short stories and poems on Resonance 104.4 FM at 8 pm British Summertime.

Also, I want to be able to read at literary festivals, such as 'The Festival Of Authors' in Canada and 'The Tennessee Williams Festival' in The United States.

I will mention my book on 'Goodreads' and 'The Online Book Club' which has thousands of interested readers.


My novel is about the lives of tenants who inhabit a house and it is also a 'coming of age' drama about a teenage girl and her poor relationship with her father. Similar books are the following:

'How To Set A Fire And Why' by Jessie Ball.

The protagonist is a teenage girl who experiences a crisis: her father is dead and her mother is in a psychiatric hospital.

'Night Of Fire' by Colin Thubron.

The novel is set in London. Seven tenants live in an old house divided into flats. The house burns.

'Small Island' by Andrea Levy. 

The novel is about the tenants who inhabit an old house in West London in the post-war years.

'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro. 

It's a dystopian 'coming of age' novel. The three main characters develop a close friendship while at a boarding school in the late 1970s. Clones populate the school whose job is to provide vital organs for the outside world. 

'The Clocks In This House All Tell Different Times.'

The protagonist travels through a dark forest and arrives at a big house. The house is inhabited by decadent aristocrats.


Part One: 1973

Chapter One

In 1973, when I was thirteen years old, I moved to 14 Bensham Grove which was located in Tooting in south-west London. The house was a large, detached dwelling divided into bedsits. The green paint on the front door had chipped and the white paint on many of the windowsills had flaked. Environmental grime had transformed the house's bricks to a charcoal grey. The smell from the drains was like a festering wound. Refuse bags, filled with rotting rubbish, sat on the unkept lawn. Rotten vegetables and soiled nappies had caused the vile smell. Some of the windows had been stained with birds' muck. Cigarette butts and paper bags blew along the road. Cracked were the paving stones. Remnants of a curry and some chips splattered the pavement.  A rat scurried towards the food. Many of the houses along Bensham Grove were large terraces with numerous steps leading up to the front door. Most of the windows were filthy. Dustbins, without their lids, stood beside the houses. Piles of rubbish choked the bins.

My parents, Edward and Sylvia Ceesay, managed to obtain accommodation here although the landlord usually accepted people without children. The landlord was friendly; there was an immediate rapport between us. He became the grandfather I never had.

Our bedsit had a big, brass number one on the door. Our bedroom, separate from the bedsit, was across a hall. This hall was always dark even in summer. In both summer and winter it had as much warmth as the Arctic. Our bedroom was large and sparsely furnished. It contained a mahogany wardrobe, two beds, a dressing-table and a heater. Bottle green curtains hung from the windows. The net curtains were white because my mother washed them every week. My bed was gargantuan. Whenever I lay in it, I felt that I was going to be swallowed. Even a hot water bottle could only heat part of the bed. 

Adjacent to our bedsit was the landlord's flat. Mr Henry was privileged in having an apartment rather than a bedsit. Opposite our bedsit, in number two, lived the Johnstons. Mr Johnston had a pallid complexion and white hair. Mrs Johnston was short and round. She always wore a pink beret, an orange coat and thick-rimmed, brown spectacles.

One day, when they were out, I peeped in their room. Permeating my nostrils was the stench of stale bacon; it was disgusting. The net curtains were yellow. The small cooker was saturated with grease and covered with dried gravy. An inch away from the cooker was the bed. Situated to the right of the bed was a sink filled with blackened pans. There was no wardrobe. Some shabby clothes lay strewn across a chair. My eyes glanced downwards. Instead of a carpet, there was red lino filled in parts with newspaper. Mice had gnawed at the floorboards. I rushed from the room.

In the other part of the house lived more tenants. Numerous stairs led to their rooms. Behind number three, a baby cried. The mother sang a lullaby. Door four groaned open; out walked a girl wearing hot pants and platforms.

"Wotcha," she said.


"Yer new 'ere intcha?"

"Yes. My mum, father and me moved here last week."

"What's ya name?"


"I'm Tracy. See ya."

After greeting me, the girl thudded down the stairs. A door creaked open. I turned my head and I just managed to see an old woman with tinted, purple hair. She slammed her door shut which was number five. Next to number five was number six; from behind this door I could hear news of Northern Ireland. There was nothing more for me to discover so I rushed down the stairs and raced into the huge garden.

Weeds choked what had once been a pond. I skipped past it and I was surrounded by enormous horse chestnut trees. They hung over me, wishing to prevent me going any further. I stopped for a minute then I continued to walk. I smelt the sweetness of apples and before me appeared an apple pie. I blinked; instead I saw three apple trees. I picked an apple, bit a piece then spat it out.

Some bushes I past, then I saw oak trees standing opposite each other in two rows; this created a long, dark corridor. My heart began to beat. I clenched my hands, counted to ten then sped down the corridor. Leaves crunched and twigs snapped as I trod on them. When I had finished this ordeal, I panted and collapsed on the grass. I lay there for five minutes.

When I recovered, I jumped up. Now I returned to the front of the garden near the house. I walked up two, concrete steps and knocked on the French window; my mum opened it. She smiled and then hugged me.

Chapter Two

The room was small and infested with furniture. A grandfather clock ticked in the left corner. In the opposite corner was a cabinet filled with crockery and crystal glass. Between the clock and the cabinet was a mantle-piece; standing on it were figurines of eighteenth century aristocrats; above them was a portrait of a young man in army uniform. The flames flickered in the hearth. Two, beige armchairs leaned against the left side of the wall; beside them were two, large plants. By the window was a dining table.

Mr Henry and me sat at the dining table. He was gobbling a scone smothered with jam. Four teaspoons of sugar he put in his tea. He gulped his drink. Afterwards, he ate a slice of chocolate cake.

"Eat as much as you like."

"Great," I said.

I ate as much as I could.

"Have some more."


I had already eaten eight scones and four muffins but I decided to fill my mouth with even more: half a box of chocolates and most of the chocolate cake.

"Do you like living here?" Mr Henry asked.

"It's okay."

"Is it still your summer holiday?"


"Do you still go to the same school?"

"I didn't want to change school although it now takes me forty-five minutes to get there."

"My sister will be coming soon. Workmen will be doing repairs on her house."

"Where does she live?"

"Sussex," replied Mr Henry.

I scrutinized the room. My eyes were drawn to the painting of the young man in army uniform. 

"Who's that?" I asked.

"Me when I was twenty. I fought in the Second World War."

There was a knock on the door. Mr Henry sauntered across the room and opened it. My mum stood there.

"There you are," my mum said. "Your dinner's ready."

"I can't eat another thing. Mr Henry gave me such a good tea."

My mum looked at the dining table. Only an eighth of the chocolate cake was left. I burped. 

"I think you've made a pig of yourself," my mum said. "It's time for you to come home. I'm sure Mr Henry has a lot to do and he doesn't want you getting in his way.

"Bye, Mr Henry."

"It's been a pleasure having you here."

"It was nice of you to cater for my daughter."

"No trouble at all," Mr Henry replied.

Chapter Three

One evening, I peered through a slightly opened window on the first floor of the house. It was the bedsit of the tenants who lived in number three.  I was able to do this as a ladder had been left against the garden wall at the back of the house. I saw a woman holding a baby in her arms. The baby was screaming. A man was slouched in a green armchair watching football on the television.

"Shut her up! I can't hear the television."

"I'm trying to, Ray. I've fed and changed her so I don't know why she's still crying."

"I wish I'd never met you. You've been one big burden! No money for luxuries. Everything goes on you and that brat! Shut her up!

"I can't!"

"You're not trying!"

The man approached the window. I quickly climbed down the ladder. When I looked up a few seconds later, the curtain had been drawn. I climbed the ladder again. Scuffling I heard then a heavy thud against the door. Next, I heard a bang. The woman screamed. I felt like climbing through the window but I was terrified.

"You make me sick!"

The woman was now crying loudly.

"You look a state! Your hair's terrible, your clothes are awful and you've even got bags under your eyes. You look fifty not thirty."

The baby was still squealing.

"Right, that does it!"

I heard a crash. Things cluttered to the floor then all was silent. If marriage is like that, I'd prefer to be single all my life, I thought.

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