I was drawn to the idea of a memoir written by a literary critic in which she examines the pull of her Texas childhood on the woman she grows into being, who acknowledges the importance of the books she's read in shaping her personality, and who has gone on to have an illustrious and celebrated career in a field that is wildly interesting to me. Unfortunately, unlike almost every other reviewer out there who raves over this memoir, I thought the book fell flat.
Divided into two parts: Texas and everything afterwards, this was a painfully slow, navel-gazing read. The writing was able but pretentious. It was emotionally flat. Caldwell is clearly an incredibly erudite woman but her meandering text was a strain. It was a strain to care. It was a strain to stay awake. It was a strain not to close the book for good one night and give into surrender. While she didn't fall into the dysfunctional childhood memoir, exactly, she seems to suggest that her father's exacting and strict influence on her life was somehow injurious. The young girl who overcame being stricken with polio as a baby, who powered through so much on sheer determination as a child, seemed to be lost as she grew up. And in her place was a depressed woman who had somehow lost her way. Riding along with her while she tried to find her sense of self again was not particularly pleasurable, despite the occasional flashes of beautiful imagery. I am essentially alone in my assessment of the book but I don't want another reading experience like this one any time soon.