She Left Me the Gun: My Motherís Life Before Me
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