Ok. So Here’s the thing… I’m meant to be writing a couple of reviews right now. The first will be easy – a very enjoyable book by a very talented author which is due out next month. I technically have a few weeks to write it, but want to get it down on ‘paper’ before I forget. I’m rubbish at making notes for my reviews. I tend to just absorb, react and let my feelings do the talking. And that is why the second review will be harder. Much, much harder.
Because Angela Marsons, meany that she is, made my face leak. I don’t do face leakage. It’s not that I don’t find stories moving or that I’m not touched by many of the things I read. Far from it. I just don’t do leakage. It is a conditioned response from childhood.
I can do emotion – anger and annoyance are two of my go to modes – I just tend to internalise the softer stuff. The touchy feely. It’s not how things were done in my house.
I have spent the past couple of days reading ‘Dear Mother.’ It is possibly going to be one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, when I finally find the courage to write it. It’s not that it’s not a good book. It’s excellent. But anyone who has read it will know that it is a very hard read too, that it is emotional and impactful. And it makes people leak.
The problem I have is that from very early on in the story, I recognised some of the characters. All of the main characters in fact. Because I am them. The three sisters, all rolled into one. Their character flaws are my character flaws, and while the reasons for that are nowhere near as severe in my case as they are in this wonderfully emotive story, they are still there. Because not all abuse is physical. Wounds heal and bruises fade. Emotional and psychological scars often run the deepest. And sometimes, no matter how hard you may try, they never leave you. Never fade.
This may seem a very strange thing to admit in a blog post. But, unlike the women in the story, I understood a long time ago what made me the way I am today. I can write this post, knowing that the two of you who are probably reading it won’t judge me and, such is the wonder of the internet, do not really know who I am. The chances of us meeting – slim to none. There are probably only two people in the whole of Twittersphere who know my real identity, and it’s unlikely either of them are reading this. When I tell people that I travel incognito, hiding in plain sight, I’m not lying.
I am, by my very nature and upbringing, shy, introverted, riddled with self-doubt, self-loathing and my own biggest critic. Praise makes me nervous. Meeting people outside of the internet is nigh on impossible because I do not feel worthy of wasting their time. If you are one of my favourite authors and we were to meet or be at the same festival somewhere, you’d probably never know it, no matter how much I love your work, because I would never want to bother you or waste your time having to talk to me. I can overcome it when I am one in a long line of faceless others. One to ones are harder. I managed to overcome it once. Back in May. I think I might still be shaking. I ‘happily’ talk to people at work because I, we, have to. It’s how work works. But it is all an act. I am a world class actress as it happens because people think I’m confident. I’m not. Never have been. I’ll talk to you if you talk to me. I’m not inhuman. Not entirely. I just can’t instigate it.
The me who is writing this post, is a creation. A hybrid. Part fact, part fiction. It is not the me that went to school and University or who bosses people around at work all day. That me is someone completely different. A me who hides behind a very thin veil, just opaque enough to mask the timid woman behind it. This me, the slightly strange one with the passion for books, is the me who might have been if history had treated me a little better. The me, who like Alex in ‘Dear Mother’, liked to write and to dream before she (I) realised that dreaming had no value in her (my) world. That facts were all that mattered. In fact, I can see a lot of Alex in me, only substitute alcohol with food. That was my failing. A humungo fat arse. As ugly on the outside as I felt within. The excuse I used to keep people at bay. No one wants to talk to or love the miserable fatty now do they?
I’m not big anymore. Two years ago, when my life changed in a way not dissimilar to that of the women in the story, a weighty burden was lifted from my shoulders and I took a decision. For me. I went on a diet. So I’m a little less hippo now, more Pygmy hippo. Still ugly, that’s genetics, just thinner. I still seldom use my actual picture anywhere on the web so I can maintain the anonymity that keeps me safe. Now, as some of you are crime and thriller lovers, should you be bothered, it wouldn’t take great detection skills on your part to work out who the ‘other’ me is. Hiding in plain sight remember?
I’m not writing this for sympathy. Not at all. As I said, I don’t do touchy feely. Human contact is not something I crave and I have learnt to be very happy being alone. I can’t abide other people’s outpourings of emotions any more than I can my own. I will always be more Ice Queen than Mary Poppins. This post is my ‘therapy’, a cathartic piece I need to write to clear my head so that I can write my review. I finished reading the book at Oxford services on my way back from Bracknell. My face leaked. It leaked intermittently all the way home. It’s leaking now. I don’t like it.
So when it has stopped leaking, I will revert to default position of clinical detachment and write the review. Because, as emotive as it is, and as much as most sane people who read it should be moved and quite probably leak, the review of this story must be about the beauty of the writing, the excellent way in which Angela Marsons has captured the essence of the characters, and the sometimes harrowing and yet important message that runs throughout, not my personal demons.
No doubt I will delete this post again in a couple of days. I don’t do emotional and I don’t, as a rule, do spontaneous sharing of personal crap. Too depressing. But I am trying to change. Slowly. One day, one ‘episode’ and one leak at a time.
Give me a few hours and the normal, slightly sarcastic, hopefully marginally humorous and occasionally insightful review writing muppet will be back.
If, in the meantime, you should happen to read ‘Dear Mother’ – my advice? Bring tissues.
Thoughtful reading all