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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound and well-written memoir., 9 Oct 2007
By 
Elizabeth Kain (Virginia, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Nicola Barry and I have known each other since we were 12 years old, both sent to the same convent boarding school for very different reasons. I thought I knew everything there was to know about my friend, but I was wrong. Nothing prepared me for the myriad amount of emotions I experienced while reading this truly excellent memoir. Despite many school holidays spent with Nicola in Edinburgh, I only witnessed a tiny portion of the hell she went through. Children of alcoholics become very adept at hiding family secrets, and in that respect Nicola was a pro. The opening lines to the first chapter are so strong and gut-wrenching that the reader is hooked right from the beginning. One cannot help but hold your breath as you read, waiting, hoping for some happy event to occur, and thinking to yourself 'just how much can one person take'. The occasional introduction of bleak humour is such a relief, but then you feel guilty laughing! This memoir is a courageous tribute to her parents, but especially her mother. Despite the grief and tragedy this memoir emotes, it ends on a note of hope and forgiveness. I live in the USA and as yet this memoir has not been published over here. It most certainly should be.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sad but spirited story, 3 Sep 2007
Beautifully written with heart and honesty. Amazed that the author is spirited and well adjusted (or at least she comes across that way!) and has not had her whole life ruined by her experience as a child. Wanted to read more about her adult struggle with alcohol and then a later-in-life analysis of the impact of being a child with a drunken mother and father who couldn't cope. Will there be a follow up?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life-affirming tale, 5 Sep 2008
By 
This review is from: Mother's Ruin (Paperback)
First of all, I have to admit I do know Nicola. Or at least I thought I did.
Now that I have read this book, I can see that I had barely scraped the surface ...
That Nicola is the funny, talented, kind and generous soul she is today seems nothing short of a miracle, in light of the tale she tells in "Mother's Ruin". Anyone who has/had an alcoholic in the family will recognise something in this book, as will anyone who has/had a problem with booze themselves.
It should be a bleak read - a mother's neglect, a father's indifference, a childhood blighted. But the sense of humour with which those of us who read Nicola's Press and Journal or Sunday Express columns are familiar is present throughout. That is not to say that she makes light of her appalling situation - she does not - but she is warm and engaging, and leaves you feeling that there is hope. If she can come through all of this, and be successful, loving (and loved), funny and likeable, then so can others in the same terrible situation.
An absolute joy of a read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Read, 6 Aug 2007
By 
Verena Krebs (Germany) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A long train journey last week finally afforded me the much needed free time to read "Mother's Ruin", a book that had been recommended to me by a dear friend. Although the synopsis of "Mother's Ruin" might not make it sound like an "easy" read; and the subject of the book - the, as one should guess, excruciatingly painful tale of how a whole family is destroyed by alcohol - appear even alarming, I was surprised to find it an exceptionally good tale.
My saying that I truly enjoyed reading "Mother's Ruin" is mostly due to it's author, the fabulous Nicola Barry. Some may already know her smart but brilliantly witted columns, and her first novel breathes the same spirit of humor, sarcasm, intelligence and a gift for the written word.

I won't bother to summarize the contents at length since there's already one on this site - it suffices to say that "Mother's Ruin" is an autobiographical novel, dealing with the childhood and further life of Nicola Barry herself, who grew up amidst a family that was perfectly "middle class and normal" to the outside, but coming undone due to alcohol and neglect on the inside.

It is a truly deeply moving tale, never self-pitying or maudlinly soppy, at no time abusing and judging. Nicola's world and her narration knows no black-and-white painting, through her eye-catching non-linear style of writing she creates an all-embracing feeling for the story and it's characters. In "Mother's Ruin" Barry decides to leave that strictly linear timeframe that makes most books of this genre so dire a read - and that's just genius. It doesn't matter, for example, that halfway through the book she starts over with an episode taking place in her early childhood just after she'd told us about her days in the boarding school. It's like a kind of puzzle, small pieces of a life coming together to form a complex, very heterogeneous life - the way every full and many-sided life probably is, I guess. This way she manages to really capture the readers' interest -- and I for my part felt myself reacting and even interacting with the story, because you start to recall what you've already read and know and slowly start to fill in the blanks of this life and character yourself.

"Mother's Ruin" therefore is, to me, an exceptional tale written by a gifted and truly strong and - considering the dire autobiographic aspects - courageous author, who was brave enough to finally broach the much kept quiet issue of alcohol disabuse and parental neglect, which self-evidently are not and cannot be confined to any class or social group but can occur everywhere around us.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional roller-coaster, 30 July 2007
By 
David Craig (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
A friend suggested I read this book, but I was reluctant to pick it up thinking it would be just another "miserable childhood" saga. How wrong I was! Although there is plenty of misery in "Mother's Ruin", much of it deeply moving and unsettling, there is even more laughter. There's a complete absence of self-pity, but an abundance of humour (much of it very black!) and optimism. Nicola comes across as a remarkable human being, who suffered much, yet found (and I apologise for not being able to think of any other word) - redemption. It's a coming-of-age book that is truly honest, brave and compassionate. It's very easy for the reader to identify with the two main characters, because they're both so human, and they stay with you long after you've closed the book. Even the mother, who causes her daughter, Nicola, so much misery and pain, is an interesting, lovable person, even if deeply tragic and flawed. So if you're looking for an emotional roller-coaster ride ... If you're ready to experience at first hand most of the emotions known to Man ... If you enjoy beautiful, descriptive writing ... If you enjoy "real life" stories ... then I heartily recommend this amazing, inspiring, 5-star memoir.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surviving Alcohol with a Sense of Humour Intact, 31 July 2007
If you have ever worried about your own drinking or that of a close relative, reading 'Mother's Ruin'could confirm your darkest fears. It is, however, also strangely uplifting to read about someone who, while born with alcohol seeping thru her veins, still managed to overcome the lure of alcoholic addiction, survive and tell a truly unputdownable tale.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling, 24 July 2007
By 
S Cammy (North Scotland) - See all my reviews
Mother's Ruin is a dark, yet intensely warm autobiography about how alcohol became a dark cloud over a little girl's family. Nicola Barry paints a picture of life in a wealthy, but crumbling, household as the main carer for those around her. Wit and charm make the brutal realities of her childhood easy to swallow with hilarious tales of peeing chinchillas and boystrous brothers.
Nicola's relationship with her mother unravels slowly revealing a mix of emotions. The author describes her mother, Monica, as an eccentric, humorous, elegant character, making her in some ways a loveable centrpiece in the story. On the other hand, Monica's weaknesses are laid bare as she orchestrates an incredible lifestyle of drinking and misery, all on a stage for her young daughter to see, and then later begin to copy.
The story is motivating, however. It is a shining example of how difficulties give a person backbone and purpose. You are rooting for the confused young woman to succeed in her own life and not let the past eat away at her.
Mother's Ruin is a fast-paced, inspiring tale. A real heart stealer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, 22 May 2014
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This review is from: Mother's Ruin (Kindle Edition)
I could not put this book down Nicola wrote it with humour and fun, she made what sounded a very difficult childhood and situation out to be very amusing but sad at the same time. I loved her mother even though she made life a little troublesome with her drinking she sounded genuinely warm and funny, just very troubled.

I am glad Nicola came out of it and turned her own life around, she sounds a wonderful lady and she is certainly a wonderful writer, well done Nicola it was superb.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable, 19 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Mother's Ruin (Kindle Edition)
Deep hurt and enormous courage, captured beautifully. A great tribute to Nicola Barry that she has survived and blossomed with such resilience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A sobering read.., 14 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Mother's Ruin (Paperback)
Where to start with this one ? A poor kid fishing her mother out of a puke filled bath perhaps ? It really is that bad. And yet BOTH parents were doctors ! Where were social services ? Where was any help at all ?
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Mother's Ruin
Mother's Ruin by Nicola Barry
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