She Left Me the Gun

Emma Brockes

She Left Me the Gun

When Emma Brockes was ten years old, her mother said 'One day I will tell you the story of my life and you will be amazed.' Growing up in a tranquil English village, Emma knew very little of her mother's life before her. She knew Paula had grown up in South Africa and had seven siblings. She had been told stories about deadly snakes and hailstones the size of golf balls. There was mention, once, of a trial. But most of the past was a mystery. When her mother dies of cancer, Emma - by then a successful journalist at the Guardian - is free to investigate the untold story. Her search begins in the Colindale library but then takes her to South Africa, to the extended family she has never met and their accounts of a childhood so different to her own. She encounters versions of the life her mother chose to leave behind - and realises what a gift her mother gave her. 4.0 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
She Left Me the Gun

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography
Format
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication March 2013
ISBN 978-0571275823
Publisher Faber & Faber
 

When Emma Brockes was ten years old, her mother said 'One day I will tell you the story of my life and you will be amazed.' Growing up in a tranquil English village, Emma knew very little of her mother's life before her. She knew Paula had grown up in South Africa and had seven siblings. She had been told stories about deadly snakes and hailstones the size of golf balls. There was mention, once, of a trial. But most of the past was a mystery. When her mother dies of cancer, Emma - by then a successful journalist at the Guardian - is free to investigate the untold story. Her search begins in the Colindale library but then takes her to South Africa, to the extended family she has never met and their accounts of a childhood so different to her own. She encounters versions of the life her mother chose to leave behind - and realises what a gift her mother gave her.

Reviews

The Sunday Telegraph

Viv Groskop

… quite simply an extraordinary book. In the hands of any halfway decent author, this would be an incredible story … In the hands of a writer as gifted as Emma Brockes, it’s basically the perfect memoir: a riveting, authentic tale elegantly told.

02/04/2013

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The Sunday Times

Helen Davies

… an exemplary family history and immensely brave … Brockes’s descriptions of South Africa and her newly discovered family (towards whom she is loyal and generously affectionate) are astute and, one feels, tempered by the tightly coiled wayward nature of the freshly grief-stricken. It makes the slow pace of the revelations all the more honourable and heartfelt. The result is a wise, tender letter of love to a mother and her incredible sense of love and necessary self-sufficiency.

31/03/2013

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The Guardian

Elizabeth Lowry

[A] courageous, clear-sighted book … Brockes handles her toxic material with a lightness of touch that navigates skilfully between tragedy and bleak comedy

23/03/2013

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The Independent

Daneet Steffens

Gripping … There's plenty of colour in the family's history — I especially liked the Dutch granny who was forced to move from civilised Holland to gold-rush Johannesburg and took to wearing a widow's cap long before her husband died — but what's truly affecting here is the way in which a daughter comes to recognise the full extent of her mother's resilience.

30/03/2013

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The Evening Standard

David Cohen

... a bit like those tedious 24-hour car journeys from Johannesburg to Cape Town: the end packs a punch but you have to cross the endlessly mundane Great Karoo desert to get there ... Not only does Brockes offer little insight into the country of her ancestors, beyond a clichéd distaste for white South Africans, but — unforgivable, this — she shows the journalistic courage of a gnat.

21/03/2013

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©2013 The Omnivore