I love reading memoirs and I’ve read three fantastic ones recently.
In The Last Act of Love, author Cathy Rentzenbrink shares the story of how her beloved brother Matty was run over. It was just two weeks before his GSCE results. She sat by his bedside, longing for him to survive, and survive he did. But surviving was just the beginning of the story. Matty’s accident had long-lasting consequences, not just for him, but for the whole family. This is a sad but beautiful book, told with amazing candour. Whilst I’ve never experienced a traumatic event like this, I could really relate to Cathy’s heartache, that feeling of, “What if I’d behaved differently? Would the outcome have been different? Is this my fault?” And her feelings of aloneness, of searching, of looking for somewhere to belong.
Maggie O’Farrell’s book I Am I Am I Am is a collection of short stories, each featuring a “brush with death” from Maggie’s own life. The first story in the book relates to a lone walk on a country path, when as a young woman, Maggie met a strange man who gave her a bad feeling. She managed to get away but later learnt that this man had gone on to kill someone else not long after her encounter with him.
Reading this brought back a memory I had long forgotten and have never shared: a lone walk on the cliffs above Sidmouth where I was on holiday with my parents. I’d just turned 16. I was sitting on a bench admiring the views when a middle-aged man came and sat beside me and started chatting to me. At first, I didn’t feel uneasy. But then he put his hand on my bare leg and I knew instantly that I was in danger. I got up. He grabbed my arm but I slipped from his grasp. He came after me, but I was faster than him. I ran all the way back to the hotel, bolted the door of my room and spent an hour sitting in a scalding hot bath. I felt dirty somehow, even though nothing had happened. I didn’t tell anyone.
Reading I Am I Am I Am, I thought, how strange that this happened to Maggie O’Farrell and also to me. But now, after the tragic death of Sarah Everard and the subsequent discussions on Radio 4, I’m realising that many, many women have a similar story to tell.
Finally, My Mess Is a Bit of a Life by Georgia Pritchett, which will be published on 29th June. I had never heard of the author but chose to read this book because I could relate to the title. Georgia Pritchett is, in fact, an award-winning television writer with shows such as Miranda and Spitting Image (the original series!) to her name. Despite that, Georgia’s tone is self-deprecating, making it very easy to relate to her.
Whilst Last Act of Love is one long narrative and I Am I Am I Am is a series of chapters, each detailing a particular event, My Mess Is a Bit of a Life is a series of short vignettes. Initially, I’m not sure I liked this: I wanted to know more. From the blurb, I’d expected a book about Georgia’s journey with anxiety: I thought it would be a much more detailed account. But I was soon hooked on the little snapshots of Georgia’s life, often hilariously funny and written with searing honesty. In fact, I read the book in just two sittings, not able to get up and do anything with my day until I’d finished it.
I loved all three of these books. They’re very different but they’re all really worth reading.