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Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and a Daughter Hardcover – 19 Jun 2014
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Lyndall Gordon manages to avoid being undaughterly about her exciting, difficult, self-obsessed mother . . . as racy as a novel (Guardian)
A biographer with soul, she reaches into the hearts of those she brings alive for us. She makes the meaning of their lives sing and sweat as she invites us into their experiences, their longings, their struggles and their disappointments . . . [a] fascinating mix between memoir and biography (Observer)
[A] beautifully written and troubling memoir (Independent on Sunday)
[A] sensitive exploration of the complexities of motherhood and daughterhood (Sunday Times)
This quietly devastating book takes us into many strange terrains but it is to the 'inner life of that room' in Cape Town that Gordon finds herself returning. It was there she fountained into one of our most sensitive writers (Mail on Sunday)
In Divided Lives, [Gordon] devotes to her mother the kind of care and attention she has previously devoted to the Modernists, and - goodness knows! - her mother, Rhoda, certainly deserves it (Literary Review)
Lyndall Gordon's intrepid and astute biographies of writers . . . frequently yield insights that have eluded previous scholars . . . Now Gordon brings her gift for uncovering startling truths to bear on her own upbringing in 1950s and 60s South Africa (Times Literary Supplement)
Memoir of the year? Divided Lives, Lyndall Gordon's enthralling and painful account of her relationship with her mother (Elizabeth Lowry Times Literary Supplement)
A wonderful read that's both frank and delicate (Sunday Herald)
Lyndall Gordon, the renowned and award-winning biographer of Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Charlotte Bronte and Mary Wollstonecraft among others, now turns to her own story with Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter.See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
As a piece of modern history, it's illuminating in its personal detail of a white family who have coloured servants; the dawning awareness that this situation is untenable and will change, and change soon.
As a family history, it's lively and full of delicate observations of loved and lovingly drawn characters, and of how each life unfolds. Central of course is the author's mother, Rhoda Press; and also her father; Rhoda's illness and the mores of the time that made such things unmentionable in polite society.
The unfolding of Rhoda's life, and the relationship between Rhoda and Lyndall, in part inseparable from the political events around them, is a story written with sensitivity and keen observation. The pressures on both generations of women of the mores of their times, and the demand that female lives are lived in the shadow of supposedly more important male lives, are well explored.
How each woman embraced her family life while also allowing her creative and intellectual life to develop is pivotal in importance in this story. These pressures and restrictions are the rumblings that birthed second wave feminism and changed expectations in heterosexual relationships all over the world in the decades immediately ahead.
As such a story must, as it moves into Rhoda's last days, I felt the universality of the mother-daughter bond, and felt my own mother, long gone, around me; an ephemeral energy perhaps, yet also a common experience.
I recommend it without hesitation.
It is an extraordinary biography because Gordon's telling of the complex story is so natural yet so intricate, it's like giving birth. The reader is in for quite an adventure and my advice is to leave your judgmental robes at the door and walk into this book naked of all isms and attitudes.
Yes, Gordon calls up events in history, the Jewish pogroms in 19th century Lithuania, the world wars, apartheid in South Africa, the birth of the State of Israel, the world of the modern poets, and the second wave of feminism in the 1970s. Yet all of these stand as a backdrop to the lives of the mother and daughter.
Gordon is on a personal journey in DIVIDED LIVES and she compels us to travel with her.
I recommend this book to any daughter who has tried to understand her mother. I also recommend it to any mother who tries to understand her daughter.