A very English difficulty

For the last year I have put up few posts. There are reasons – mostly, though not all, good ones. I thought I might just about manage once a month, but I was going to cheat this February/March. The distinguished journalist, television director and author, Cynthia Reyes, had kindly asked me to be interviewed for her At Home series, and I thought I would re-blog her post… but I can’t. Because I’m English (and overcome with embarrassment). Cynthia has cleverly and kindly picked out my, often small, achievements, spread thinly over a long life, and polished and condensed them until they give an impression of a High Achiever.

Like everyone else, I enjoy a warm feeling at seeing work I have done being given attention and receiving praise for it. I am vain enough not to undo her good work by pointing out the why these are not as good as they look. Yet I would give much to have done what Cynthia has done. She has overcome daunting physical challenges and lives with PTSD after an accident when at the peak of her career. In addition she has written two amazing, entertaining, heart-warming and, above all, honest books about her life and its challenges. Then last year she published a book that will thrill, comfort and entertain children all over the world, Myrtle the Purple Turtle. This book will contribute positively to humanity.



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.