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Who Was Sophie?: The Two Lives of My Grandmother: Poet and Stranger Hardcover – 3 Apr 2008
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** 'A well written and often touching book (LITERARY REVIEW)
** 'Sophie's story is beautifully and lovingly told by a sympathetic granddaughter whose aim is to coaz the old renegade from the shadows and into the light, revealing her as an extraordinary person whose undoubted gifts were sadly extinguished by conflic (DAILY MAIL)
** 'Robertson is a skilled curater, marshalling the scattered evidence from her grandmother's life into a coherent and absorbing story . . . Robertson has the perfect pitch. She races through the background material, exploring the genuinely remarkable incidents with a keen eye and giving impressively objective analysis. (OBSERVER)
** 'What takes a woman from one extreme to the other makes for fascinating reading. The portrait is also a moving story of a woman's determination to be a free spirit. (METRO LONDON)
* Celia Robertson tells the heartfelt and moving story of her grandmother's fascinating journey from published Bloomsbury poet to bag lady through diary extracts, journals and correspondence with Virginia and Leonard WoolfSee all Product description
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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.