Laura Cumming - On Chapel Sands
Uncovering the mystery of her mother’s disappearance as a child, Laura Cumming, prize-winning author and art critic, takes a closer look at her family story. In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home.
It was another fifty years before she even learned of the kidnap. The girl became an artist and had a daughter: Laura Cumming. Cumming grew up enthralled by her mother’s strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community. Cumming began by exploring a few criss-crossing lives in this fraction of English coast but soon her search spread right out across the globe as she discovered just how many lives were affected by what happened that day on the beach - including her own.
On Chapel Sands is a beautiful book of mystery and memoir. Two narratives run through it: the mother’s childhood tale and Cumming’s own pursuit of the truth. What is particularly memorising about this book is Cumming’s analysis of pictures of all kinds, from paintings to photographs, which open up like doors to the truth. Cumming discovers how to look more closely at the family album - with its curious gaps and missing persons - finding crucial answers, captured in plain sight at the click of a shutter.
Tara Westover - Educated
Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.
As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. However, at sixteen Tara’s life changed when she decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge takes her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With acute insight, Westover, from her singular experience, has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers.
Lisa Taddeo - Three Women
All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her? All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town? All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?
Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions. Described by Waterstones as a ‘riveting exploration of female sexuality and desire, and the often yawning chasms between enticing fantasy and cruel reality, Three Women is suffused both with erotic yearning and raw honesty, and serves as a vital document of twenty-first century sexual politics’.
Emilie Pine - Notes to Self
In this spectacle debut, Emilie Pine speaks to the business of living as a woman in the 21st century - both its extraordinary pain and its extraordinary joy. Courageous, humane and uncompromising, she writes with radical honesty on birth and death, on the grief of infertility, on caring for her alcoholic father (this book is worth buying for the first sentence alone), on taboos around female bodies and female pain, on sexual violence and violence against the self. Devastatingly poignant and profoundly wise, yet always joyful in the face of adversity, Notes to Self offers a portrait not just of its author but of a whole generation.
The one on our wish list: Jung Chang’s Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China