The Sunday Times Memoir of the Year, MAGGIE AND ME by Damian Barr, is our April Non-Fiction choice: discuss the book and win a free copy here(55 Posts)
The death of Margaret Thatcher happened to coincide with the publication of this brilliant memoir, giving it extra wind in its sails. But this is not exactly a Maggie book. It is a deeply moving tragicomedy about growing up different in a small town in the Eighties. Out of his horrific childhood Damian Barr has managed to create a joyful, funny book that is as uplifting as it is shocking. Damian is a lanky, geeky, gay kid growing up in a tough Scottish community based around the heavy industry that Maggie is about to destroy. When he is 8 years old, his mother leaves his steel-worker father to live with Logan, a violent abuser. They eventually escape, but Damian's mother turns to drink, leaving him pretty much abandoned. Yet Damian still manages to survive all this with a deft wit and a belief that he can escape to a better life. His use of irony is beautifully subtle, and throughout the book his courage and resilience are astonishing. Not only is he an extraordinarily funny writer, he is also hugely admirable in his lack of bitterness or self-pity. A life-enhancing, positive and inspiring read, not to be missed.
Bloomsbury have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters: to apply for your free copy, please fill in your details on the Non-fiction book of the month page.
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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…
I wasn't really expecting to be too enthralled with this book, as the multitude of tales of childhood woe around now don't appeal to me much, but I was so wrong! I became engrossed.
Starting from very early memories he told the story the story of his impoverished childhood within a dysfunctional family environment. Obviously different from others in more than one way, he was picked out for unfavourable attention and abuse. My heart went out to him numerous times, most noticeably when he used the phrase "and that's the last of my baby teeth". No self pity there, just a factual description of the run up to the assault.
The book raised a few questions within me. Why did no-one intervene when he must have been so visibly injured regularly? Why wasn't his father helping him more? How did he manage to get a bedroom to himself when there are five people sharing another bedroom. No answer is forthcoming to these questions, but the book shared his story of how a poor, studious, gay boy could survive, mature and escape working class Scotland and escape to a different life.
Well done Damian. You have truly earned a better life.
Not for me, I'm afraid. I thought the book would have benefited from a less detached, more emotional tone and some of the people in the book were written as one-dimensional (like the stepfather). I'd have appreciated more humour, too, and the writing had the occasional flash of flair but was mostly pedestrian. The Thatcher link was weak and perhaps a calculated device from the author to add heft to a very familiar genre - I simply didn't buy that she in anyway influenced him. However, being of the same vintage to Damian, I did enjoy the 80's and 90's pop culture references.
Another one who enjoyed it. I grew up in the same era and found it very interesting seeing someone from a completely different background's view of the events of the day.
The matter of fact narration of the atrocities he endured is particularly striking. As is the love he evidently has for both parents despite their ineptitude and neglect. A fascinating read.
I really enjoyed this book, I was born 5 years before Damian Barr, so I remember the world he's writing about and it brought back some memories, both good and bad.
My background was very different, and I grew up in the East Midlands rather than the North, which is always painted as being harder, and my family weren't dysfunctional, but, as well as sexual orientation, anyone who dared to be 'different' got a hard time of it.
I am fairly political, but I was pleased the book did not centre on Margaret Thatcher, instead giving an emotional insight into how the author's informative years were, in a well-written easy-to-read style which left you unable to put it down!
I read this book on holiday, and absolutely loved it. An amazing writer, and writes his personal story so honestly, so humbly and with sensitivity. I honestly cried, laughed, and cried a bit more at this book. Amazing book, amazing writer. He went through so much, and proved to everyone just how bloody brilliant he really is. I can't praise this book enough.
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