Do I Want To Read… Memoirs, Of A Kind?

I haven’t done a ‘Do I Want To Read’ post for ages and yet I think there are about ten or twenty books whizzing about my brain that I would like to your thoughts on, alas with everything else going on they come into my mind and then are soon forgotten. I bet as soon as this post has gone up I will be kicking myself that I didn’t mention some other titles. Anyway, today I thought we would deal with two books which have a link of sorts for one is a memoir and the other a fictional work that’s very much based on the authors personal life, well as far as I can gather. So I am hoping some of you will have read either or these or have heard things about them that you can pass on and help me form an opinion of whether I do or don’t actually want to get my mitts on them.

I have seen huge posters for Margaux Fragoso’s memoir ‘Tiger, Tiger’ here there and everywhere in my travels from home to town or home to hospital. It wasn’t until Louise mentioned it in the comments of another post and said “I recently read Tiger, Tiger… I don’t usually read that type of thing, but I couldn’t not read it, most unsettling” so naturally my interest was piqued, though when I saw the blurb, during a browse of Waterstones, I was rather shocked…

“I still think about Peter, the man I loved most in the world, all the time. At two in the afternoon, when he would come and pick me up and take me for rides; at five, when I would read to him, head on his chest; in the despair at seven p.m., when he would hold me and rub my belly for an hour; in the despair again at nine p.m. when we would go for a night ride, down to the Royal Cliffs Diner in Englewood Cliffs where I would buy a cup of coffee with precisely seven sugars and a lot of cream. We were friends, soul mates and lovers. I was seven. He was fifty-one.”

I instantly wanted to hate the book, yet thought I should put my prejudices to one side and maybe try the prologue. I don’t know if it was the honesty, or the quality of the writing (though I have heard people say it’s written appallingly, each to their own) or the car crash element of it but I read the prologue and could have carried on. I had to leave, and something stopped me from actually buying the book. I didn’t know if it was tasteful or not and to be honest I still don’t yet something makes me want to read on, is that bad?

The second of the books I have been mulling over is actually the last of a series, so maybe the question is do I want to read this series? The book I am talking about, and have started seeing lots of reviews of it popping up here and there is ‘At Last’ by Edward St. Aubyn. Here’s the blurb…

“For Patrick Melrose, ‘family’ is more than a double-edged sword. As friends, relations and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor – an heiress who forsook the grandeur of her upbringing for ‘good works’, freely bestowed upon everyone but her own child – Patrick finds that his transition to orphanhood isn’t necessarily the liberation he had so long imagined. Yet as the service ends and the family gather for a final party, as conversations are overheard, danced around and concertedly avoided, amidst the social niceties and the social horrors, the calms and the rapids, Patrick begins to sense a new current. And at the end of the day, alone in his rooftop bedsit, it seems to promise some form of safety, at last. One of the most powerful reflections on pain and acceptance, and the treacheries of family, ever written, “At Last” is the brilliant culmination of the Melrose books. It is a masterpiece of glittering dark comedy and profound emotional truth.”

I had heard this series was based on his own past which included being raped by his father, drug abuse and possible suicide. My initial thoughts were ‘oh not another Dave Pelzer’, sorry if people love him but how much money many books can someone write out of their own misery, it even sparked the ‘life tragedies’ genre in certain book stores. However one of the previous novels in the series ‘Mother’s Milk’ was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006 which leads me to believe they must be very well written, I also heard him on Open Book with Mariella Frostrup and found him rather interesting to listen to and the fact a book based around death and abuse had had Mariella laughing. I’m wondering if I have been missing out on this author and series, have any of you tried him?

Any thoughts on either of these books or the authors?

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14 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Do I Want To Read?

14 responses to “Do I Want To Read… Memoirs, Of A Kind?

  1. All I can say is that to compare St Aubyn’s books to the ‘tragic life stories’ sections of misery memoirs would be wildly unjust! His books are indeed beautifully written and I think it very likely that you would enjoy them, Simon. If you do, best start with the trilogy Some Hope, which has the first three (very slim) Patrick Melrose novels Never Mind, Bad News and Some Hope under one cover.

  2. Tiger, Tiger sounds like the memoir of a pet dog… how disturbing to think it is a child. Euw.

    I can highly recommend St Aubyn’s Some Hope, a trilogy of novellas (in one volume), which I read in 2006. (There’s a review on my blog somewhere but I’m too lazy to hunt it out.) I still haven’t read Mother’s Milk (I have a hardback in the TBR) but am dying to read At Last — it’s had some very good reviews on other blogs, such as John Self’s Asylum.

    • Yeah I am unsure whether I think Tiger, Tiger is a really groundbreaking idea or actually just an ‘ewww’ one. Which is probably why I haven’t made any move to read it since this post.

      I have started Some Hope, I am reserving judgement.

  3. I seem to be hogging your comments, Simon, sorry about that. But I have just seen this interview about Tiger Tiger on the Irish Times, which you might be interested in reading:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2011/0513/1224296823647.html

  4. Louise

    I don’t read ‘misery memoirs’ and i’ve only read a handful of autobiogs.When i picked up Tiger, Tiger my reaction to it was very similar to yours, i really wanted to dislike it, but i found myself reading it and then not wanting to stop.. is that wrong?..i did question that.I have two kids,and i had to put that out of my mind to read it.

    I have mixed feelings about this book,i haven’t been able to write in my journal about this yet as i can’t quite make sense of my thoughts. I liked the writing,it is harrowing, very honest, brave and heartbreaking. I don’t think it’s a book you can enjoy but it’s a book to be read..maybe :-s

    I’m glad i read it.. i think you’ll read it?!?

    • I am still uncertain Louise. In fact I went into a Waterstones for the first time in ages yesterday and to the section this was in and didnt think to look it up. My mind can’t work out the groundbreaking vs grim aspects of this book and until I am decided I think I might leave it, maybe at some point I will try it – maybe not.

  5. Jen

    Hi Simon,

    You always have such interesting posts! If I didn’t have children, I would read Tiger, Tiger but as it is, I can’t.
    I just put the other book on hold at my library after reading your post. For some reason, I always like books like that. It must be because it makes my life look easy. Take care, Simon. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Thanks Jen thats very kind of you to say. I would put it more down to books and the thoughts they give me rather than me full stop haha.

      I hadnt thought about if reading books like this will make you feel better about your own life. Interesting. As I read more of Some Hope i’ll have to see how I feel about that and report back.

  6. I think I would put “We need to talk about Kevin” right into this category. If I wasn’t a mother of boys maybe I would have been more inclined to give it a go as reviews suggest it is such a thought provoking read. I suspect I will never read this one, especially after inadvertently hearing the last 10 minutes of the book on a radio broadcast.

    • I started reading We Need To Talk About Kevin and it really jarred with me, the writing not the content that I guessed was coming. Everyone says its fantastic though, so I am going to endeavour to give it a whirl at some point.

  7. Pingback: Help! Those 3 For 2′s… | Savidge Reads

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