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If You Don't Know Me by Now: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton Hardcover – 6 Mar 2008
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'Lucid, unsparing and compelling' -- Evening Standard
'This funny, heartfelt memoir reveals the distressing history of Sanghera's family while celebrating the love that kept them together' -- Marie Claire
As charming as it is wrenching, as funny as it is haunting, this book is wonderfully unlike any other
-- Andrea Ashworth, author of bestselling memoir Once in a House on Fire
Gripping and entertaining, horrifying and tender. So delightful, insightful and charming -- The Times
I absolutely loved it. Heartbreaking and wonderful. He writes beautifully
-- Maggie O'Farrell
Told with enormous compassion and the most unexpected dry wit ... What a painful and joyous voyage of discovery! -- Jonathan Coe
`Gripping ... elegant ... There is no shred of misery or self-pity in this story, rather an endearing and intelligent humour which provokes honest laughter and absolute respect' -- Daily Mail
`Particularly moving ... funny and revealing ... you want to punch the air and cry at the same time'
-- Sunday Times
From the Back Cover
Born in the West Midlands in 1976 Sathnam Sanghera attended Wolverhampton Grammar School and graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge with a first class degree in English Literature. He joined the Financial Times in 1998 before moving to The Times in 2007. He lives in London.See all Product description
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Sanghera describes his upbringing, having been born into a poor Punjabi Sikh family in Wolverhampton, the youngest of four children, to a mentally ill labourer father who subsequently spends most of his life unemployed due to his illness. His deeply religious and traditional mother is illiterate, but nevertheless works very hard in a sewing factory, and her lack of education means that she is reliant upon her family. It is difficult reconcile the eloquent Sanghera as he is now with the child who did not speak English and did not learn to read until he began to attend school. In writing the book Sanghera researches his family history in order to gain a greater insight into the schizophrenia affecting his father and sister, and in so doing he discovers that his mother was subject to physical abuse at the hands of his father, who was too unwell to understand what he was doing to the woman that he loved. This part of the story is both heartbreaking and insightful, highlighting how a lack of education can dictate a person's suffering and future. The account also highlights the deficiencies of mental health provision, particularly in the 1970s-1990s, but this is also a problem today. Sanghera's wider family intervened and his father was put on medication, and did not lay a finger on his mother from then on. The loyalty and love between his parents, who had an arranged marriage, is heartwarming.
Sanghera and I were born in the same year, yet our upbringings are poles apart. He describes his childhood with such humour that it is easy to accept that he shared a bed with his parents for much of his childhood, and was sent to work in a sewing factory for a pittance whilst he was still at school. Nevertheless we had much in common in terms of music and culture, so I immediately identified with his obsession with Michael Jackson, and the hours he spent making mix-tapes by recording songs on cassette from the radio (something that I did myself!).
In the book, Sanghera describes his battle to please his mother, with her strong religious beliefs, attending meetings with women chosen by her as potential brides, and living his very Western life in London, having to keep non-Sikh girlfriends a secret from his family, almost living a double-life. Eventually he summons the courage to tell his mother that he has had Western girlfriends, and may eventually choose to marry a non-Sikh woman, and her heartwarming response is full of love.
I adore this book for its humour, honesty and wit. It's one that I will read several times in the future.
Sathnam grew up in a traditional Sikh working class family in Wolverhampton and emerged from it into his middle class media lifestyle in London. He tries (sadly fails) to find true love whilst all the time returning home regularly to endure his mothers plans to arrange him in marriage to a Sikh girl of the "right" caste.
Out of a need to bridge this yawning gap in his double life, Sathnam resolves to write a letter to his mother declaring that he will only marry for love and rejecting her notion of his destiny. The letter forms the penultimate chapter of the book; his mother's response the dénouement.
Sathnam's story is sensitive, thought provoking and most definitely laugh out loud funny. It had me by the end of paragraph one.
The only problem with this book is that it has to end. It's written so beautifully I wanted it to just not stop. Sadly I won't have the delight of reading this great book for the first time ever again. You have that treat ahead of you, so grab yourself a copy, curl up and enjoy!
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