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Book review: She Left Me the Gun packs emotional punch without melodrama

Growing up in the United Kingdom, the mother of Emma Brockes never talked much about her family. But the mother's death prompted her daughter to travel to South Africa in search of the painful truth

She Left Me the Gun: My Motherís Life Before Me
Emma Brockes
The Penguin Press

The title couldn't be more eye-catching nor more fitting for a memoir about an only child.

Emma Brockes is investigating a family secret that's haunted her life following the death of her mother Paula. In the bequest of a small handgun with a pearl handle, Paula leaves Emma with the first clue to a childhood ruined by abuse and betrayal.

A loving, if stern, wife and mother, Paula had come a long way from her South African roots to a bohemian London. Her mother is fiercely protective, amusingly dismissive of those "peculiar" English, and beguilingly complex. She rarely speaks of her family and Emma learns to accept this until her mother's death. This prompts Emma to travel to South Africa to uncover the truth.

Brockes' memoir possesses many strengths, not least an emotional punch and unflinchingly sharp observations. Steering clear of melodrama, She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me is definitely worth a read.

* Noori Passela

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