I loved the section in Ireland, her childhood right up to her marriage and when she leaves her husband and finally gains custody of her two boys (the...moreI loved the section in Ireland, her childhood right up to her marriage and when she leaves her husband and finally gains custody of her two boys (the first half of the book). Then the memoir loses some of its richness...gets caught up in social circles, brief stories. There are again moments of beauty and richness but...never in the same way. This is a memoir by a very private person, so...that shows.(less)
The sort of story that once started, I have to finish in nearly one sitting. A fascinating account of a woman whose childhood was spent in part among...moreThe sort of story that once started, I have to finish in nearly one sitting. A fascinating account of a woman whose childhood was spent in part among monkeys in the Colombian jungle (as a five-year-old, she was kidnapped, then abandoned in the jungle). Later, surrendering herself to a stranger, she is sold to become a slave-worker in a brothel but her wits, along with a kindly neighbor's warning, keep her from actually becoming a prostitute. Street life and more follow but Marina's wits, well-honed in the art of survival, as well her need for genuine human connection, keep her safe for the most part and alive.
I am fascinated by wild child stories: what makes us human? What makes us 'civilized'? What are we without the human family? Marina's account of her time among monkeys adds to my appreciation of animal intelligence. More than once she is saved by a member of the clan: once, terribly ill from something she ate, she is brought to water by an elder, made to drink and hence, vomit.
Some of the other goodreads reviews doubt the veracity of the account. I do not, or at least no more than I doubt other memoirs to be 100% "true." Intrinsic in the act of writing about one's life is embellishment, and the line between memory and imagination is not always clearly drawn in our mind. But those who doubt, it seems to me, fail to consider both the incredible cruelty humans beings can have for others, the mercenary ends we engage in, the extent of human trafficking, and the capacity that the animal world, in particular primates, have for connection, empathy, and awareness.
There is one aspect that I'm not sure I believe and that is the actual length of time Marina lived with the Capuchin monkeys. Looking back with her daughter, she calculates time in terms of how much her daughter's hair grew in childhood with memories of how much her own had and comes up with x number of years. But who's to say whether her own hair would have grown at the same rate, especially given her limited diet, and more to the point, how can time spent alone as a child be calculated? I remember summers feeling like years... Seasons in the jungle are not so noticeable, so not a reliable marker of time passing. I question whether she really spent the 3 or 4 years she calculates. I don't doubt, however, that the author did live with monkeys, followed their ways and learned much that was important: what to eat, where to sleep, for example, along with playfulness and affection.(less)
This charming memoir is mistitled and really should be called something like: Growing Up with Bing (Daphne Du Maurier). The focus is not so much on he...moreThis charming memoir is mistitled and really should be called something like: Growing Up with Bing (Daphne Du Maurier). The focus is not so much on her mother but on the world she created: Menabilly, the neglected manor house Du Maurier was so smitten with and was able to rent and rehabilitate for a number of decades. Menabilly served as inspiration for so many of her novels, including most famously, Rebecca, even before she ever took it over as her own. The childhood Flavia evokes is unconventional, full of laughter and imaginative games, despite the obvious favoritism her mother showed for her brother, Kits, and the hours she spent writing in a room with the door closed. Du Maurier's self-discipline as a writer was fierce but her children seem to have loved her so much, had so much fun with her when she did emerge, that they forgave her her many hours of separation (only Kits got to share mornings in her room, and then only when he was quite small). The memoir follows up on Forster's biography of Du Maurier well, offering a clear picture of the children's life in Menabilly: with a dad who was mostly away (in the army) and a mother who was very much present--even if she did sequester herself for hours each day to create her stunning stories.(less)
I was sooo looking forward to reading this book: for the Mexico connection and because of the high praise and award it received. But yes, as you can t...moreI was sooo looking forward to reading this book: for the Mexico connection and because of the high praise and award it received. But yes, as you can tell from this start, I've been disappointed. It feels so chatty, so conversational... I was expecting something more distilled. Who can fault him when he lost his beloved wife after only fours years together, only two of those as husband and wife? But do we need to know everything about their time together, every bit about her, do we need to fall in love with her ourselves? Goldman needs us to and much of the memoir--it seems to me--is more for him than us. To be fair, parts of it are beautiful, poignant, memorable. In places there is poetry, research (about waves, fascinating). I know that Goldman had established a literary award in his late wife's name, and I happened to be in Oaxaca last October during the Feria del Libro when he was on hand to award the 2do Premio Aura Estrada to a young and very talented Mexican woman writer. It seems a wonderful lasting tribute.(less)
Household is a charming narrator. I wouldn't rate this as highly as the best of his novels (of which I've only read the terrific Rogue Male so far), b...moreHousehold is a charming narrator. I wouldn't rate this as highly as the best of his novels (of which I've only read the terrific Rogue Male so far), but he's had an unusual life and is atypically British: that is, very open to other ways of life, a lover of Spain and the Spanish, a linguist. The sections are titled: Traveller, Soldier, Craftsman. Soldier, the middle section, is the longest and least interesting (to me). I admit I skipped some of it. But...there are adventures and observations for all here.(less)
I don't know, of course, whether you've ever been in the high Arctic in the summer, but I would begin by telling you how striking the light is. For t...more I don't know, of course, whether you've ever been in the high Arctic in the summer, but I would begin by telling you how striking the light is. For two months or more the sun doesn't dip below the horizon. In a treeless, winter-hammered landscape like Alaska's north slope, the light creates a feeling of compassion that is almost palpable. Each minute of light experienced feels like one stolen from a crushing winter. You walk gently about, respectful of plants, with a sense of how your body breaks the sunshine, creating shadow. You converse in soft tones. The light is--perhaps there is no other word--precious. You are careful around it.
I wish I could tell you that all of the book is like this. Passages you want to pause at, read again. It's not.
I heard Alexandra Styron read from her memoir recently at The Mount in Lenox, MA (Edith Wharton's home). She's an excellent speaker and it was a rivet...moreI heard Alexandra Styron read from her memoir recently at The Mount in Lenox, MA (Edith Wharton's home). She's an excellent speaker and it was a riveting hour. I was therefore very much looking forward to reading her book, which I'd by chance found on the Swap Rack at my local cafe.
The first half of the book (she read the 2nd chapter) does not disappoint. Alexandra's tales of researching her father through his letters and papers housed in the collection at Duke University, along with tales of growing up with him, the stories that he told her as a child--often quite scary--are very moving. But as she journeys in prose through her own adolescence and adulthood, the book becomes more about the daughter (she's the youngest of four) and less about the father and author. As Styron's depression overtakes him for a second time, Alexandra seems particularly ill-equipped to write about it and him.
There a is a page late in the memoir where Alexandra quotes her sister Susanna from her writing on their father's death. Her sister's writing feels much more incisive and sensitive than what we've been wading through.
The second half of the book feels gossipy, unenlightened: standard growing-up memoir material (too much about boyfriends, traipsing about on Martha's Vineyard). Perhaps she needed more distance than she had at the time of this writing. A complex, depressive, sometimes hurtful man, Styron evoked complicated emotions from his daughter, and I don't feel that she fully explores these.
Am I being unfair? I can't stand it when the mother or father in a memoir is referred to as Mommy or Daddy (The Color of Water is another example)...surely the son or daughter outgrew this appellation? Maybe not. Maybe Daddy was what she called her father all his life: but does the reader need to hear it too? Daddy grates.(less)
Susan Gardner is a poet and artist whose memoir, Drawing the Line, chronicles the life of a woman who increasingly places the rigor and discipline of art and the act of creation at the center of her life. But Gardner’s memoir is most interesting and impressive for its chronicle of the life of a highly intelligent, capable woman who, given the times, familial, marital and societal expectations, consistently finds her ambitions thwarted (enrollment at M.I.T. is rejected by her parents in favor of Hunter College; later as the only woman in the international relations doctoral program at Johns Hopkins, she’s told by her advisor: “It’s too bad you’re here, but the university has decided to admit women to this program. You were the best qualified. I hope you aren’t wasting a space that could be better used by someone else” (97)). Her husband’s career in the foreign service takes them for several years at a time to Korea, Japan, Washington D.C. suburbs, and Mexico. Yet despite these many moves, an increasingly difficult, even abusive marriage, Gardner is able to devote herself to her sons, and enjoy the demands of motherhood. At the same time she finds her way around obstacles and limitations (foreign service wives were not allowed to work at this time) to a life of great integrity and accomplishment that includes teaching, public service, fluency in first Korean and then Japanese, along with painting, drawing, printmaking, gallery shows and expositions. Carving out a path that is her own, Gardner eventually journeys to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where in time, an unsought but ultimately welcomed second marriage begins and a dizzying number of houses are bought and reconstructed until the right one is settled upon.
After an initial chapter in Mexico, Drawing the Line follows Gardner’s life chronologically in a manner that is not markedly artful or poetic but one which the reader comes to find increasingly compelling. The balance Gardner strikes between reserve and divulgence seems right, and the honesty and clear-sightedness with which she relates the continual challenges (the loss of a child, her husband’s affairs, exclusion from the working sphere abroad) as well as the resources she is able to draw from in facing them bind the reader to her with great compassion and respect. Wherever she lives, she attempts to reach out, to create community, a life much larger than the one prescribed to her. “From very early childhood I learned that because I was able to, I must do what was required of me,” (90) Susan Gardner writes. Here she chronicles her journey from meeting the requirements of being a daughter, sister, wife, mother, foreign service spouse, to those dictated by her art and her heart. Gardner’s memoir will interest many, and to those women who struggle still against the dictates of society or their own upbringing, it provides an important example, a path of encouragement and a means of support.(less)