Memoir

The brain, notes philosopher Paul Churchland, is the engine of reason and the seat of the soul. David Roland’s memoir of stroke and its aftermath presents a vivid picture of engine failure and a soul unseated. His book lays bare the disorienting realities of brain injury and his gradual but faltering steps towards recovery. In time he adjusts to having a somewhat ...

Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard

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October 2014, no. 365

In Boyhood Island, the third volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s internationally acclaimed My Struggle cycle, we are taken back to where the series began: an island in southern Norway, seven-year-old Karl Ove and his older brother Yngve live under the tyranny of a cruel and taciturn father in the mid-1970s. Unlike the first volume, A Death in the Fami ...

Peter Rose reviews Erik Jensen’s unusual memoir of his relationship with the troubled artist Adam Cullen. ... (read more)

Ann Moyal was born in 1926, so now she is heading towards her ninetieth birthday. She has already launched a work of autobiography into the world, written in her mid-sixties. But her life did not, then, ‘take a quieter turn’. On the contrary, she tells us, ‘I’d continued to spend my ageing life with passion, involvement, and intensity.’ And that has inspir ...

To take to the road on a bike, especially if you are a solo female cyclist, is to make yourself vulnerable, submitting yourself to hours of muscle-taxing solitude and reliance on the kindness of strangers. But while slower and physically more arduous than other modes of transport, cycling brings you closer to your surroundings. It offers different perspectives and u ...

For anyone who has ever complained about a difficult mother, or written a memoir about one, this is a humbling book. How trivial, by comparison, our complaints seem. The subtitle promises (or threatens) a disturbing memoir, and so it is. I found it difficult to get out of my head days after reading it.

Biff (born Elizabeth in 1942) Ward was the second child ...

John Carey’s The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books has three intertwined components: autobiographical memories from Carey, a prolific author and book reviewer and former Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford; his six-decade interaction with that university; and ‘English literature and me, how we met, how we got on, what came of it ...

Shy by Sian Prior

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June–July 2014, no. 362

Shy is a strange beast – part memoir, part journalistic investigation, part cri de coeur. Reading it, you are immersed in the interior life of an intelligent and sensitive woman. The experience is unsettling, almost voyeuristic. You wonder whether you should be sharing such an intense and honest self-scrutiny, and often feel as if you were breaching ...

Dangerous Allies by Malcolm Fraser, Cain Roberts

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June–July 2014, no. 362

Coinciding with the World War I anniversaries, Malcolm Fraser’s book will polarise Australian opinion on a fundamental issue. It has never been raised in this way, for Australian leaders have not discussed decisions to go to war in public, nor sought popular approval of Australia’s alliances. Yet successive generations of young Australians have fought in British ...

In Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Sandcastle (1957), a young artist called Rain Carter is commissioned to paint a retired schoolmaster, Demoyte, an eccentric with an offbeat sense of humour. Instead of his usual attire – a shabby red velvet jacket with tobacco stains and bow tie – Demoyte turns up ...

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