Memoirs – I love them.
What’s a memoir and how is it different from an autobiography? I used to think they were synonymous, but they’re not.
When someone writes the story of their entire life it’s an autobiography. If a person chooses to write about a section of their life, they are probably writing a memoir. Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir. It records a year of Elisabeth Gilbert’s life along with some flash backs. There are many types of memoirs; overcoming adversity, searches for identity and resolving past traumas, travel adventures, achievements and life changes. Memoirs are based on facts as the author sees them.
Memoirs – I love to read, write and invent them.
If they are factual, how can you invent a memoir?
I am helping Rina write her memoir, Two Poofs and a Poodle. Whilst all the events in this book actually happened, I have channeled Rina’s thoughts and reflections to create this book. I would consider this to be an invented Memoir. It is 100% told through Rina’s eyes and in her voice, but I’ve never seen her tapping away at the computer typing the manuscript. She’s left that up to me.
I devour memoirs. Some are great, others a reasonable read and some a waste of time. In the last year I’ve read five memoirs that I consider wonderful. Each of them inspired me to write better. Here they are.
When It Rains : A Memoir
Maggie MacKellar has written a powerful memoir about rebuilding her life after tragedy. Maggie’s husband commits suicide leaving her with a five year old daughter and an unborn child. Within months her mother also dies, removing the support she had relied on for years. Alone, with despair as her companion, she finally moves to her mother’s family property in western New South Wales and begins to rebuild her life. It inspired me and when I passed this book onto friends, they all loved it. I have never faced such tragedy, but it is inspiring to see how Maggie coped; one step at a time.
Lavander and Linen
Henrietta Taylor is widowed with two young children. Her first memoir, Escaping, didn’t really appeal to me, but I loved Lavender and Linen. Henrietta is Australian, humorous, scatty and likeable. With her children and a sometimes lover, she sets to work rebuilding her life in a small village in the south of France. I loved this book and her quirky writing style. Maybe I saw parallels with the life change I had made 17 years ago or maybe it’s because I love Paris. I recommended it to my American friends, but they found little to like. There’s no accounting for taste. Just look at their current presidential race.
The Bookseller of Kabul
A friend leant me this book and for two days I did little else beside read. It is a magnificent story. Following the fall of the Taliban in 2002, for four months Asne Seierstand lived in Kabul with Sultan Khan (The Bookseller) and his family. For 20 years the bookseller had kept books alive in a society that banned just about all forms of literature. This book shares so much about a family dominated by a despotic male, insights into Islam as practiced in Afghanistan, and the desire to keep books alive. It is beautifully written and Asne never shies away from telling the true story.
Jeremy Howe’s wife, Lizzie is brutally murdered, leaving him with two young daughters and bucket-loads of grief.
Here’s the review I posted on Goodreads.
This is an amazing memoir, full of hurt, sorrow and hope. Jeremy Howe has shared a tragedy with us and shown how you can choose to swim instead of drowning. It is inspirational. I can’t wait to share my copy with friends. They too will cry, but never stop reading.
Under the Tuscan Sun
Frances Mayes has written a great memoir about buying and renovating a Tuscan villa and living there for part of each year. I moved to Bali in 1999 and this is probably why her story resonates with me. I prefer the first half of this book, before she adds a heap of recipes. But even though I didn’t enjoy the whole book, as a I writer I learnt much from it. She takes the reader there and shows us Tuscany and her life. She also weaves in Italian words so they become integral to the story. A book that educates me must be included in my favourites, even though half of it didn’t appeal.
Friends again disagree with my assessment, but I love that we get to debate and justify our opinions, even if theirs are wrong.
If you can get your hands on any of these books, I am sure you will find them interesting, even if you don’t love then as I do.
So back to my statement, Memoirs – I love to read, write and invent them.
This blog has shared five memoirs that I’ve enjoyed and learnt from. It has also explained a bit about an invented memoir. I have not shared the chapters of my life that make up the memoirs I write. I’ll do this next time.
Please tell me your favourite memoir and why you love it.