Review published on March 15, 2017.
This is a deeply personal memoir by journalist and travel writer Clover Stroud. The youngest child of five, she is only sixteen when her mother suffers catastrophic brain damage in a riding accident, damage that means she will be dependent on care until her death more than twenty years later. Throughout those years Stroud – who felt isolated and often overwhelmed – will try to re-build her sense of family security – so this book is a trope on wild and dangerous living via alcohol, drugs and sex, through an unsuccessful first marriage, managing two children and an alcoholic partner, through to her avowed new security of a new marriage with three more. The constant theme throughout is her grieving for her mother and lost life, as well as her reaction to it, but melded with her ongoing relationship with, and need for, horses (the “cause” of her difficulties). As she flips back from the now to her various pasts we see not just her maturing self, but the various places and landscapes around her on her journey.
At the same time as avoiding deep mention of key people in her life, Stroud can be brutally honest about her past actions and possible motivations. Setting aside whether you are drawn to her as a person, Stroud is an extremely fine writer who can fully evoke places and the spectrum of emotions. She also creates a picture of a family lifestyle that would be alien to many. Underlying this is an exploration of the security and sense of ease, or otherwise, that a family can bring. Critically, this memoir also evokes the contradictory emotions created by watching a close family member deteriorate and slowly die.
Whether this book will appeal to you – and books group – will depend on whether you have a curiosity about, or interest in, a detailed depiction of others’ lives as lived through pain and tribulation to an equilibrium of happiness.
Hilary White 3/3
The Wild Other: A Memoir by Clover Stroud
Hodder & Stoughton 9781473630215 hbk Feb 2017
Wellcome Book Prize 2017 shortlist: How to Survive a Plague by David France
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