When Dylan Thomas died of drink-related diseases in 1953 the world lost one of its born entertainers. Thomas not only wrote memorable poetry but recited it with such a unique and commanding voice; previously poets, like children, were meant to be seen (and read) but not heard. Drink fuelled he may have been, unfashionably bohemian he certainly was, adulterous and egotistical by rumour but above all he was a genius of language and we felt poorer with his passing.
Caitlin, Thomas' widow, kept silent about her years with Dylan through her own dark and drink filled days despite the obvious interest. Moving to Italy and remarrying she was helped through many painful years of battling against alcoholism to emerge as a person in her own right, a person with memories and the need to put them to paper. Caitlin died in 1994 at the age of eighty one leaving her second husband and her youngest son to these written memoirs. They deal, in two broad sections, with her childhood in the New Forest and her life with Dylan. The honesty of her writing is, at times, alarmingly sharp: Dylan's baby-like qualities and his obvious envy on the birth of their first son; Caitlin's response to Dylan's infidelities by taking an impotent lover in Cardiff; her abortion just prior to their trip to America and its emotive finale. Reading this book one feels the torment with which it must invariably have been written, the uprooting of painful memories from deep within, the compulsion to write each one down free from editing control. Although no acknowledgement is given in the book I presume, from the tone of his Afterword, that Caitlin's youngest son, Francesco Fazio is responsible, at least in part, for these fragments of life being brought together and published after his mother's death. If this is the case he has done an excellent job, not only in being able to deal with his mother's other life in such a poignant manner but also in having the courage to detail her thoughts and emotions as clearly, as readably as she herself would have wanted.
To fans of Dylan Thomas this may be painful, difficult reading - nobody likes to see the flaws in their hero after all. To scholars this book is obligatory reading as it offers a hitherto unknown angle on the tormented life of the poet from the one person who knew him better than anyone - his wife and drinking companion.