An Abbreviated Life
Opinion in short:
Beautifully written – an acute observation of middle class parenting gone terribly wrong. It’s a retrospective, told from the child’s point of view. One to challenge the standard definitions of child abuse.
- This book not only tells a tale, it does so with delightful words. The vehicle is as compelling as the story. Having someone with such a talent for writing is rare in this genre – but this book is a long way from the populist child-abuse stuff you’ll find at the supermarket. This is someone who knows how to write and brings that skill to bear on her own past.
- Whilst clever, the writing remains accessible.
- Finely observed, this memoir traces the growth and escape of a child abused by parental unavailability. Not neglect in the classic sense -materially she had everything – but maternal emotional absence. More than that, it’s maternal dependence on the child to meet the parent’s emotional needs.
- Ariel Leve manages to portray a mother who is not all bad, though mostly. Not entirely selfish, but nearly. Not completely nuts, but almost. In this sense, the mother character is believable. A product of her age and class, no doubt, and abusive, definitely – but human and pathetic with it.
- The parallel storyline is the adult child now searching for sanity despite her past. She wrestles with the profound sense of obligation to her mother, whilst all the while trying to escape her.
- The chapter length is good, giving the reader the sort of regular breaks you need when reading stuff like this.
- This is a great portrayal of a narcissist, so it remains entertaining throughout. It’s not too long, either!
- Wealth puts a unique spin on child abuse. This particular kind of literary, high art, metropolitan, American wealth is tricky to relate to. But the child’s perspective helps here, as it cuts through the money and pretension, to highlight her needs.
- I lost patience with the mother, whose failings and proclivities are cyclical, repetitive and wholly annoying. The utter self-centredness of her is lightened, again, by the child’s narrative – which is erudite and closely observed.
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