Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

Further Reading – Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

When putting together the Further Reading, it was difficult to decide where to put Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. While one of the main characters in this book is a talking dog, the most important part of this book is not the dog himself, but what he represents:  depression. Affecting the lives of both Winston Churchill and librarian Esther Hammerhaus, depression and suicide take the form of a black dog, just as Churchill described figuratively in his writing.

This collection of  memoirs and essays look at the beast that is depression and how it affects those who suffer from the illness and those who are close to its victims.

Darkness Visible by William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice, is a pioneer in memoirs and non-fiction about depression by so clearly and painfully describing the details of depression.

Half in Love by Linda Gray Sexton  is a memoir in the tradition of Darkness Visible, but with the additional element of Sexton’s role as mother and as a daughter to poet Anne Sexton, who succeeded in committing suicide after many attempts. The legacy of suicide, the fact that you are much more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, is very real and Linda writes beautifully and honestly about what it is like to be under the spell of depression.

Unholy Ghosts, edited by Nell Casey, is a collection of essays by authors about depression that offers perspectives similar to that of Sexton’s and Styron’s, but also from family members of those who are depressed, including Styron’s wife.

Further Reading – A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Joyce Carol Oates, known for her thought-provoking fiction, has written a new memoir, released on February 15, about the sudden death of her husband of forty-six years and the aftermath. Painstakingly describing the grieving process, Oates writes about what it is like to have lost the most important part of her life.

The point of this group of memoirs and novels is not necessarily to give you a collection of books about death and grieving, but rather a collection that describe what it is like to be a wife, and, yes, sometimes a widow. Each of these books looks at the woman as wife, as connected to her husband, but individual and beautiful.

It’s going to be difficult to read A Widow’s Story without immediately thinking of Joan Didion’s powerful The Year of Magical Thinking. This book is a memoir about the sudden death of Didion’s husband, John, and her daughter Quintana’s illness, but it is also a well-researched piece of non-fiction about grief and the concept of magical thinking.

Also non-fiction, The Meaning of Wife is a look at what it is to be a wife in the 21st century. With a range of topics like the wedding industry, wives-turned-murderers, abusive relationships and sex and marriage, The Meaning of Wife is a fascinating must-read for any woman.

The Paris Wife is a soon-to-be-published fictionalized account of the marriage of Earnest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Author Paula McClain deftly creates a voice for Hadley based on the letters that she sent to Hemingway and her other writings. Hadley gives us a different perspective on the controversial and conflicted figure that Hemingway has become.

Finally, Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife is the story of one woman whose famous husband is about to win the prestigious, fictional, Helsinki Prize. As they fly to Europe to  accept the prize, his wife decides that she must end their marriage and the novel is her first-person account of their life together and its inevitable unraveling.