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The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,959 ratings  ·  245 reviews
From the poet behind bone, a lyrical memoir—part prose, part verse—about coming-of-age, uncovering the cruelty and the beauty of the wider world, and redemption through self-discovery and the bonds of family

“My little brother and I saw a unicorn in the garden in the late nineties.
I’m telling you. Neither one of us made it up; it was as real as anything else.”

The Terrible,
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  1,959 ratings  ·  245 reviews

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Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-fell-in-love
“Pull yourself together. You are an African, the most magical kind of human there is.”

I knew that this book would break my heart and it did. It’s a memoir of Yrsa dealing with life’s challenges (understatement) and it is raw, brutal and honest.

There are four parts to this book, each section exploring a different stage in the authors life, the tone of the book and the language changing with it and echoing its time frame.

Thought it is poetry, the writing does an incredible job of weaving those
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant! I loved Yrsa Daley-Ward's book of poetry Bone and was thrilled to see she'd written a memoir. The Terrible is part verse, part prose, telling the story of Yrsa's life thus far. She grew up with her younger brother, living with her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the north of England. She never knew her father, only that he was a professor in Nigeria. Her mother had issues of her own, leaving her unable to raise Yrsa and Roo when they were younger.

Roman Clodia
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn't find this as fresh or original as I hoped: Daley-Ward creates a dark memoir of alienation, depression and a downward spiral of drink, drugs and sex, occasionally lit by flares of imagination and sparse moments of love and connection.

But I found this over-written in places, and the free-verse form gimmicky with random line breaks and occasional right-margin justification which have no effect on meaning or interpretation.

There's so much white space on each page that this is a speedy
Read By RodKelly
I knew this would be great but wow!

This memoir-in-verse is stunningly candid, often invoking painful memories that highlight what seems to be universal pain and trauma that black children inherit from their parents. The truth of this touched me while I read because Yrsa Daley-Ward does not shy away from the subject: she points a finger at her mother's parenting, her grandparents religious strictness, the stream of men who treated her as a sexual object, and consequently, her foray into being a
Sep 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
Disclaimer: I won this book for my BookTubeAThon Book Dominoes Challenge (woop woop!), I wasn't asked to review it but since I got it for free and wouldn't have picked it up on my own I think it's important to mention that. ///

I always feel like the ultimate asshole when I rate biographies and memoirs low because who am I to judge another person's life or how a person decided to share their experiences with the world, yet here we are. And I feel like a douche saying it: but The Terrible was
Lara Kareem
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is so terribly good, it carries Yrsa's essence from the onset to the end. It is one dark tale, with glimpses of lights here and there, but so dark and powerful, Yrsa can't help but capture my attention with her story.

To me this memoir is one of a kind because it is truly a piece of art, it's like reading a beautiful long poem, verse-prose? that starts with how she came to be in this terrible hard world and how from an early age she had to learn to always look out for herself, in order
Alice Lippart
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2018
Beautiful, raw and honest.
A few months ago I read Bone, and the only thing I had to say at first was that I so badly wanted to hear the poetry spoken out loud. Then, at the beginning of June, I actually got the opportunity to see Yrsa, as her book tour for The Terrible had a stop in my city. Listening to her speak was as beautiful and as powerful as I had imagined, and walking out of that bookshop, I felt so inspired. Since that day I’ve had a copy of The Terrible, but have been waiting for the right time to read it. ...more
Nikita Gill
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Yrsa Daley-Ward. I love the way she visualises her world. I love the way her brain works, and the way she puts pen to paper. Her work on instagram is gorgeous, but this, this was something otherworldly altogether. To make it clear, I have not yet read Bone, so this is the first full body of work I have read by Daley-Ward and it stunned me. Her command over language, her effective and simple way of telling an explosive story, it's all there. All of it. I wept for her in this memoir. I ...more
Laura King
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yrsa Daley-Ward's memoir is a breath of fresh air, though the content can be heartbreaking at times. She tells her story through poetry and through prose, in mixing both manages to keep their reader on their toes and refuses to let itself be just a standard autobiography. It tells the story of her mixed West Indian and West African heritage, the devout grandparents who brought her and her little brother up in the north of England, and her working out sexuality and trauma, and emerging as the ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Yrsa outdid herself in this one, my good folks.
Madalyn (Novel Ink)
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-physical
This was beautifully written (and beautifully read by the author in the audiobook)! I’ve been on a memoir kick recently and this one is absolutely worth your time.
4.5 stars - An emotional sucker punch.

Don’t you know you’re one of the lucky one? shouts the terrible. Don’t you know I’ve got you, you ungrateful, ungrateful creature? You wretch! Don’t you know those dark times kept you stronger? (thus sayeth the terrible). Don’t you know without me you would be just another girl with an everyday life and an almost-house always under construction and a man you tolerate and don’t really love and a father you met but who stopped you from doing anything and
I was excited to read this book, because while I'm not really a fan of Yrsa Daley Ward's poetry, I do think the clarity she employs in that work would make for an intriguing memoir.

Not many things here are new experiences—oppressively religious grandparents, confusing and/or concerning childhood experiences with sexuality, and lots of self-despair, all of which funnel into a gripping depression beginning in Daley-Ward's young adult years, which we are still in the thick of by the end of this
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
In a style that transitions between traditional prose and a modified verse as well as first, second AND third person, Yrsa tells a heart-wrenching story of her mother’s troubles following a young pregnancy with her older brother and her own life as she grew up, exiled to her grandparents’ house because Marcia (her mother) had a boyfriend who couldn’t be trusted with Yrsa’s growing body. Separated from her younger brother, Roo, and her only parent Yrsa was forced to follow the strict religion of ...more
Louise Pennington
The Terrible is simply exquisite.
Review to come! I’m leaning towards 4.5 stars...
Cardyn Brooks
The following review first appeared on June 3, 2018.

Similar to the ways in which Billie Holiday and John Coltrane used the same musical notes and scales as other musicians yet managed to produce otherworldly compositions exponentially more complex than the sum of their individual elements, in The Terrible Yrsa Daley Ward has crafted a ballad of her life in prose poetry that exceeds conventional expectations of a memoir.

A prologue, four numbered sections, and an epilogue
Denise Cormaney
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finished this one in a day. Whoa. I've never read anything like it.

Sometimes we hear a story about someone who has labels that society is quick to judge (drug user, prostitute, private dancer/escort), and it's easy to see those labels and jump to those judgments, all the while forgetting the person is a human being with a story that led to the present circumstances. And chances are, this human being did not start out in life with a stable home environment and loving parents who one day dreamed
Jen Pennington
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So glad I stumbled upon Yrsa Daley-Ward this year. Reading her work is like holding a beating heart in your hand. So alive and frightening and exciting and rare.
Written in a combination of prose and poetry, this memoir evokes feelings of sadness, alienation and the need to belong.
The language is beautiful, the novel short, but it is a rather intense read.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a good story but it's written as a poem, to no real effect, and I was like

Wade Snowden
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Florence Welch, of Florence + The Machine, says that Yrsa’s works is like “holding the truth in your hands.”
That perfectly sums up how I feels.
Her first collection, “bone,” was incredible, and I am so glad this went even further with her craft.
Yrsa Daley-Ward is an extraordinary story teller, and I suggest you run to pick up her work
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a great read, and an incredible, sometimes dark story being told. The style of writing switches between poetry and prose throughout. I found myself unable to put it down! Read it in a few days :)
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best thing I’ve ever read!

The way she tells her story— the design, the words and the ways she pulls you in.

I saw every word, felt every vivid detail. Her pain, her palpable pain — it is with me.

Now this is how you write a damn memoir!

Raw and free and unencumbered with zero fucks!

Stylistically beautiful.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I think Ysra Daley-Ward is very brave for writing this and there are some beautiful sections/lines, but overall there were too many stylistic tricks that served absolutely no purpose, which ultimately made this a rather unsatisfying read.

May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, memoir
Daley-Ward is a spoken word poet whose work came to prominence through the instagram poetry movement. This is her memoir, which describes her childhood with her Seventh Day Adventist grandparents, her relationship with her mother and brother, and her descent into drug use during her early twenties. It's a very uneven book: the first section, about her childhood, I found compelling and well-evoked, and her combination of prose and poetry was effective. However, as the book continued, I felt her ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous writing. How does she take a tough life and convey it so beautifully?
Samantha (AK)
Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone knows how to tell a story. Often, the likability of a given memoir comes down not to the content, but the way in which the story is told.

That said, a lot of people are going to bounce off this book. Told in a stream-of-consciousness narrative that’s somewhere between plain verse and experimental prose, the size and placement of a word on the page as important as it’s dictionary meaning… it’s not the most accessible style. I think it works, though,
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Yrsa Daley-Ward is a writer and poet of mixed West Indian and West African heritage. Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the North of England. Her first collection of stories 'On Snakes and Other Stories' was published by 3:AM Press.
“I am somewhere else now. I am part human, part metaphysics, and I still haven't worked out which parts of me are which. I love this new form. I can feel space traveling through me. I am porous and wondrous and bold ... It's not that I loved to leave, rather that staying was always completely impossible.” 6 likes
“Is life hidden in the lining of our seams? Are we wearing it inside out?” 5 likes
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