Rachel's Reviews > Manhattan Memoir: American Girl; Manhattan, When I Was Young; Speaking with Strangers

Manhattan Memoir by Mary Cantwell
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Feb 16, 10

bookshelves: biography-memoir
Read from January 16 to February 16, 2010

These are Mary Cantwell's three memoirs published in a single volume. American Girl is the story of her life in Bristol, Rhode Island, from birth to high school graduation, Manhattan, When I Was Young covers her life after college, her marriage and two children, and her career at Mademoiselle magazine, and Speaking with Strangers is what happens after her husband leaves her.

I didn't dislike the book, so much as I disliked Mary Cantwell. The book is interesting in places, mostly in the middle volume where Cantwell talks about trying to establish her career and marriage. Overall however, it's seriously overburdened with a lot of detail that sometimes makes it feel as if you're being talked at by a senile old relative. The real problem, though, is that Cantwell herself is a horror. She's pretentious, classist, anti-Semitic, obsessed with her dead father, narcissistic, paranoid, transparently self-congratulatory, and completely lacking in self-awareness. I started tagging pages so that I could quote some of her more ridiculous passages, but there are just so many, and I would really like to be done with this woman. I probably should have stopped reading it about halfway through, but I think I was hoping that at some point she would grow up and stop being so awful. Perhaps in life, she did; in these pages, she never does.
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Rachel The Manhattan memoir was the best of the three, but even so, it's probably not worth the time.


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