Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Vanishing by Candida Lawrence

This is the fourth of memoirist Candida Lawrence's works and yet this is the first that I've heard of her. I suspect that I am not remotely the only one who is unfamiliar with Lawrence's work either. And that's a shame because her work is uncomplicated, deceptively simple, and fascinatingly different.

Rather than a linear memoir, this is a collection of essays that combine to draw a picture of who Candida Lawrence has been throughout her life. The chapter lending its title to the book deals with Lawrence's abduction of her children from their father and the twenty years following this, living new, created lives. The essays span a long life, address painful and sometimes controversial topics, and sometimes obscure more than they enlighten. They are unadorned and matter of fact regardless of the topic they cover. And they invite us into the mind of Lawrence complete with memories, obfuscations, and creativities. This is not a typical memoir although it contains the seeds of Lawrence's life. It is, instead, a look at our times and the way that the political drove the personal. It is a gift to the reader.

The essay format takes a bit of getting used to for readers expecting a traditional memoir format. And as is generally the case with books comprised of essays or seperate pieces, some are stronger than others and one or two that seem unconnected to the rest of the book. Midway through the book, tha chpater entitles Mitterrand's Last Supper baffled me as I read; perhaps I failed to recognize the symbolism. But most of the pieces have a graceful, sparing strength to them and made me glad to have finally made the acquaintance of this writer.

My thanks to Unbridled Books for a review copy of this book.

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