SHE LEFT ME THE GUN by Emma Brockes is our February Non-Fiction choice - apply for a free copy and discuss the book here

(45 Posts)

Our February NonFiction choice, SHE LEFT ME THE GUN, is about a woman on a mission to forget who she used to be - and her daughter’s mission to find out. Award-winning Guardian journalist Emma Brockes has written an astonishingly clear-eyed and compassionate account of her mother’s shocking story, and how she came to unearth the truth. With such a deeply compelling and personal subject, we asked Emma to tell us about it herself:

'For a long time, I felt rather sheepish about writing this book. I thought it constituted making a fuss, and not making a fuss was a central plank of my mother's character. I was also wary of it being lumped in as a misery memoir, which is why the working title was Boo Fucking Hoo. (I couldn't have it, my publishers said, because I'd never get on Radio 4).

Since publishing it last year, I've come up with lots of reasons as to why exactly I wrote it. Like: “I wrote it to circumscribe the grief after my mother's death.” This didn't occur to me at the time, but I believe it. It was Primo Levi who said the human condition is naturally opposed to anything infinite, and if you don't know the extent of what you've lost – if a person dies having kept large swathes of their life secret from you - the loss feels unbounded and therefore unbearable.

I also wrote it because it seemed to me that a great sacrifice had been made on my behalf and I couldn't stand the idea of it going unrecognized. We live in an age of compulsive, public self-pathologizing. Talent plus trauma is the jackpot condition, failing which just talent, failing which just trauma. I interviewed Simon Cowell, once, whose shows have done so much to encourage the idea of adversity-as-selling-point and even he had to admit things had spun out of control: “I once had a guy who came rushing out on stage and literally shouted, 'I've got cancer!' Like it was great news. He was so happy that he had a sad story.”

My mother always threatened to tell me her sad story. “One day I will tell you the story of my life,” she said, “and you will be amazed.” She said it in her customary style, jaunty and undefeated, but I knew something horrible lurked underneath. You can always tell. It is there in the flit of the eyes.

It would, I'm sure, have been consoling for my mother to talk about what happened to her in childhood and early adulthood. But I was not the person to hear it. No child should bear the weight of their parent's unhappiness and she understood that. It was none of my business and she moved heaven and earth to keep it that way.

None of this struck me at the time. At the time, I thought I was writing it because it was a great story and I'm a journalist. I was writing it because it kept her close to me for a little bit longer. Mainly, I was writing it for what I hope is a good reason to do or write anything: because if I didn't, no one else would.’

You can find further details on Emma's website including interviews for the Guardian, as well as information on both her books.

If you’re interested to read and come back and discuss, apply for a free copy. Faber have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters – to claim yours go to the book of the month page. We’ll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you’re not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

If you get a free copy, we do expect you to come and and tell us what you think. So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month and look forward to hearing your thoughts…

Hullygully Fri 07-Feb-14 15:49:08

I WANT THIS VERY MUCH

Shells Fri 07-Feb-14 20:40:57

Remember reading an extract of this in the paper and it was fab. Would love a copy.

blackkettle Fri 07-Feb-14 21:51:16

This looks interesting - pity she didn't get to keep her working title!

BOFtastic Fri 07-Feb-14 21:53:02

Ooh, yes please!

Theimpossiblegirl Fri 07-Feb-14 22:02:22

This looks like an amazing read. If I get a copy I may print a new cover with the original title. smile

MakeMeJumpIntoTheAir Fri 07-Feb-14 22:09:33

Sounds good to me!

Amicus1966 Fri 07-Feb-14 22:39:10

I listened to this serialised on R4
It was very moving.

janajos Sat 08-Feb-14 10:35:15

I have applied for my copy! I am really enjoying reading these books of the month. This one sounds like a story worth hearing, and there is no better reason to tell a story than that otherwise it would not be heard!

DrNick Sun 09-Feb-14 11:14:24

i enjoyed this book last year
the beginning is VERY funny and the mum is a real character

ScrambledSmegs Sun 09-Feb-14 11:29:35

Yes please! Looks like a great read.

discophile Mon 10-Feb-14 17:00:29

Yes, please.

Ruby6918 Mon 10-Feb-14 19:21:17

this sounds really interesting the mother daughter relationship and family secrets id love to read it,

carameldecaflatte Mon 10-Feb-14 19:59:35

Yes please, love the working title.

monkeychambers Mon 10-Feb-14 20:46:00

Yes please, sounds great.

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Mon 10-Feb-14 20:49:34

Count me in please.

ihatethecold Mon 10-Feb-14 20:57:14

Yes please

maddisonred Tue 11-Feb-14 23:02:37

could I have a book please

curlingandtwirling Wed 12-Feb-14 12:03:11

yes please grin

Hanginggardenofboobylon Wed 12-Feb-14 15:36:35

Have applied, I saw the author talking about the book not that long ago, on BBC breakfast I think and I was enthralled by the whole story.

NumptyNameChange Wed 12-Feb-14 19:06:23

yes please! zooming through books at the minute.

Holdthepage Wed 12-Feb-14 21:34:57

Would love a copy please.

abstractLucas Thu 13-Feb-14 11:33:12

I couldn't see a 'they're all gone' post so have just filled in the form - fingers crossed I guess! I love the working title too!

lavendersgreen Thu 13-Feb-14 18:57:16

Keeping fingers crossed I'm successful smile

AliceMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Feb-14 13:18:30

This giveaway is now closed. We will notify those who have been selected to receive a free copy of the book via email. If you were unsuccessful, please feel free to buy the book and continue the discussion here.

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