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Remind Me Who I am Again Paperback – 6 Jan 2011
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About the Author
Linda Grant was born in Liverpool on 15 February 1951, the child of Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. She is the author of several works of non-fiction and four novels, including When I Lived in Modern Times (Granta) which won the 2000 Orange Prize for fiction. She lives in North London.
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Scenes recalling the homes for the elderly, old childhood haunts, childhood routes through cities, all these, just ARE, manifest in the present tense of her writing.
No rancour or bitterness for the way things are with an ill and difficult mother, but a calm recognition of our own histories as determining ourselves, the rotten bits included.
Never have i read a book so calm, yet so full of lively recall not shamefully damaging nor confessional and there are enough of those sorts of books. a truely fascinating retelling.
This is an exercise in archaeology - in taking people for granted, in wanting to be a teenager, to become an adult in your own right, to escape from your parents. It's only when you lose them you begin to ask the questions you wish had recognised while they were around. Roots. Identity. Where did the family come from, what was their history, how did they cope, how did they live?
Linda Grant's family were immigrants, fleeing from oppression in 19th century Europe. They reached England by accident or design, some on forged documents. They changed their names. Those who remained behind were consumed by the Holocaust. By the time Linda Grant began speculating on her roots, only her mother was left ... and her mother's memories were colander secure ... they were leaking away.
It is a sense of loss to which I can relate: I'm illegitimate; I lost half my roots before I was born. My mother died suddenly - no wasting disease for her. But I'd never talked to her, asked her the sorts of questions I wish I had. How many of us do ask the questions? How many of us do take the time to inquire, to treat our parents' and grandparents' lives and histories as significant?
Linda Grant, and countless thousands of others, have to endure watching a loved one ebb away. It's as if they fade, become invisible.
This is a book on which you can hang your heart and emotions. It is never clawingly sentimental. It does not explore the practicalities of coping. But it does ask essential questions about how we value ourselves and our families: our identities, our 'selfs', are built from memories, are cemented together by memories and personal histories.
You do not need to be touched by dementia to find this book valuable. It is, quite simply, a beautiful book about family, about family history, and about the discovery of self.
Three years ago my wife was diagnosed with dementia and I was hopeful that Linda Grant's book would, in telling her mother's story, give me a further insight into dementia and how another family handled the many problems it produces.
Dementia manifests itself in many forms and, in the case of Linda's mother, allowed her to live in her own flat, several hundred miles from Linda and her sister, for a relatively long period. Their frequent telephone conversations were relatively coherent but frequently tend to be highly acerbic. That form of dementia is significantly different to the one I, and my wife's highly experienced carer, are now experiencing.
Linda's book spends, in my view unfortunately, many, many pages delving into the genealogical structure of the family and how her mother remembers - or confuses - their relatives.
Linda Grant has earned the number of awards for both her fiction and non-fiction writing including an award from Age Concern. This latter award I find slightly surprising for, although the book gives a certain insight into the issues of dementia, it has a very narrow focus and is highly influenced by the family's strong Jewish background.
If you're looking for a broader based study of the practical - with the emphasis on PRACTICAL - issues involved in facing up to dementia I'd point you in the direction of Oliver James Contented Dementia. The story of how Dorothy Johnson, based on her experiences with her mother's dementia, developed a widely accepted - and very practical - approach to the handling of this disability is well worth reading.
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