8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Among the endless accounts of traumatic childhoods and celebrity angst, this book provides an example of a memoir which in its sensitivity to a troubled yet unique personality, shows what this literary form is truly able to do.
Celia Robertson tells the story of her grandmother Joan Adeney Easdale. Terms such as `bohemian' gloss over the character of a gifted, spiritual and dramatic woman whose literary talents were spotted by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in the 1930s, and whose unique volumes of poetry were contrary to the Auden-like styles of the time. Joan was an individual driven by an urge to create, and a person capable of great love and devotion.
A friend from the end of her life described Joan / Sophie as `like a creature form a Greek tragedy' and it would be easy to read this story in that way; as a fall from this promise of literary success via an unhappy marriage, dislocation to Australia, the increasing dominance of mental illness, and finally realisation of herself as Sophie Curly in the care homes and underside of Nottingham in the 1980s and 1990s.
But unlike other `terrible life' memoirs, there is no sense of mawkish sentiment or clumsy hagiography. Robertson's is a thoughtful, considerate and sure footed style, accessible yet comprehensive and nuanced. The book is an exemplar of rooting the truth simultaneously in the emotions and hard fact. Troubled Sophie is given `space to dance' in these pages, which provide a testament to her will to live a full life.
The book provides further insight by reproducing drawings, pictures and poems, including Easdale's long poem Amber Innocent which is pleasingly given in a facsimile of the original 1939 Hogarth Press edition. The use of diaries, letters, notebooks and the tender decoding of the posture and composition of forgotten photographs enable the reader to share in the author's urge to `honour' her grandmother, to `take everything out of the box and put it back again, known.'
Most touching and most immediate are the passages of discovery, when Robertson becomes part of the story and describes retracing Sophie's footsteps through the places where she lived, revealing places much changed over sixty years but haunted by the presence of her grandmother.
This story shows the depths of experience and the complex narratives that lie behind those labelled dismissively as `mentally ill'. The enduring impression of this calm, tender and loving book is of a careful act of fealty to the reality of a complicated woman.
0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2008
Very disappointing. A self indulgent and badly written biography/memoir as tedious as any schoolgirl diary. It is very difficult to feel any empathy with any member of the extended family.One of only two books to be confined to the wastebasket in the last forty five years of book buying, I only hope the author is a better actor than she is a writer. The book has almost no literary merit no matter how honourable the intentions were.