by Mary Soames
One of the great wonders and advantages of second-hand book shops is the real sense of getting a bargain! Don’t you love buying something at a fraction of its original price and somehow feeling that you are pounds in – only to realise, of course, later that the truth is that you bought something that you probably didn’t think you needed in the first place? I can tell you when you’re packing and sorting out boxes for moving the process by which we acquire more bits and pieces become particularly relevant.
However, this book is an exception that disproves all of my rules – but perhaps the nearly 3,000 book on my shelves are also such exceptions?! I picked it up in a second-hand bookshop in Conwy for the princely sum of £2 and enjoyed almost every page of it.
Imagine writing a biography of your mother – a life spanning over 90 years but mostly at the heart of the establishment and some of the most significant events of European history. In nearly 600 pages, Mary Soames writes about her mother drawing of hundreds of personal letters between her father and her mother.
The result is astonishing – Mary Soames takes her reader nearly six decades of marriage with skill, affection and a keen insightful eye. She manages an extraordinary critical distance between daughter and mother – something very rare in biography, and especially one where the dynamic between the object and subject is so complex.
We are taken through a long life of a very wide range of public and personal disasters and triumphs with affection and candour.
What warmed my heart was the sheer strength and character of this woman, her complete belief in her husband (which surely enabled him to achieve so much?). But in all of this a shy, passionate and highly strung woman who’d had quite a harrowing life, but lived it to the full with style and energy.
So, off to the second-hand book shop and look for this one – you will not be disappointed.