Memoir month

In the last month I seem to have majored in non-fiction reading. Several were POW research memoirs and I’ll save them for another post. The others were personal – and every one a winner!

A Good Home by Cynthia Reyes

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I read this a few weeks ago and the warmth, stylish writing and entertainment are with me still. Cynthia’s story travels from the wild and carefree days of her first family home in Jamaica to the sobering struggles with physical trauma in her most recent home in Canada. This is a book that seems to hold a family truth on every page. I kept muttering, yes, yes, as I read. It also contains some of the most moving and recognisable accounts of both happiness and grief that I have ever come across. I will re-read this for its wisdom and charm.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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I have meant to read this anytime in the last twenty years and recently spotted it in a friend’s house. She said, take it, it’s a quick read. She was right. I found myself reading this like eating chocolate. This is family life from the inside of a culture that I have only ever seen through a distant lens. While there is much uncomfortable subject matter, it was utterly absorbing and a revelation to me. I understand her reputation and will read her later works.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

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Honest to a fault and giving a strong sense that the author has written without any restrictions, this is a strange, unique and mesmerising tale. The story encompasses the hawking experiences of T.H. White (of King Arthur fame), Helen’s own hawking life and above all her crippling experience of grief over her father’s death. A complex and highly fulfilling read.

I Belong to No One by Gwen Wilson

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This is the raw account of a girl who, at birth, fell foul of cultural norms in Australia in the 1960s and 70s. She paid the price for it at every turn of life from infancy to motherhood – a life that includes illegitimacy, an unstable mother, violence and forced adoption. It is a vivid and extremely readable personal account of a period of Australian history which sounds like the past, yet the effects of which still linger today. Gwen Wilson’s writing is full of detail, conversations and descriptions that lift it way above the individual memoir.

32 thoughts on “Memoir month

  1. Hilary, what a nice gift — your kind review of A Good Home. You put my book in excellent company, too. I have also read Maya Angelou’s wonderful I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and my husband read H is For Hawk by Helen McDonald and thinks it’s terrific. I will have to read Gwen Wilson’s book now.

    You know good books and you know good writing. I am enormously thankful that you took the time to read A Good Home and even happier that you enjoyed it.

    You made my day.

    • Ah, I understand. My family often tell me to write a memoir, but I love to write about all the adventures I imagine but I haven’t had. Working on my parents letters and memoirs has been research, and demands a level of accuracy I would be unwilling to spend on my own life.

      • The limited feedback I have had so far indicates readers can cope with the Australian “voice”, and you know, the adoption practices were prevalent in the UK and America also, so that may resonate with other mothers caught in the same situation. Let’s wait and see. But thank you so much for your positive feedback 😀

  2. These all sound as excellent as you’ve indicated, Hilary, but of the four authors, I’m familiar with only Angelou. I’m so pleased to have been pointed toward the other books and authors, at least a couple of whom I see stopped by in the comments section to thank you and update you on their writing. (How awesome is that!) I also have to tell you that that H is for Hawk book cover is gorgeous. I’m curious, Hilary, do you typically buy softcovers or hardcover, on an initial read at least? My husband is slowly transforming me from a softcover-lover to a hardback-o-phile. Both have their merits, to my mind. Again, a lovely call-out of four memoirs I need to have in my home library.

    • Hmm, given your interest in complex writing and vocabulary, I think you’d particularly enjoy H is for Hawk. I often get given hard-cover, but tend to buy soft-cover if it’s available, simply because of the weight. I actually read whatever finds its way to me including ebooks.

  3. Pingback: Memoir monthReviews matter to writers and readers both.  I can hardly describe how thrilling it was to read this review, and to find myself in such excellent company too.  Thanks, Hilary Custance Green. | Cynthia Reyes

  4. Pingback: MEMOIR MONTH | Cynthia Reyes

  5. Those are wonderful reviews. I’ve read two of them: A Good Home by Cynthia Reyes, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I’ve heard about H is for Hawk and will now have to read it. The others, too. Thanks for these.

    • A pleasure. I find that I am drawn more and more to memoirs as the years go by. They are often more open and individual that autobiographies as they are not grappling with an already established reputation that has to be upheld at all costs.

      • I am fascinated by the diversity within the memoir genre. And the creative ways of telling a true story. At least half the books I read now are memoirs! – Diane

  6. Pingback: An Honest House and an Albrizia | Green Writing Room

  7. Pingback: A Summer of Great Reviews | Cynthia Reyes

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