This is a very good but very sad memoir about Rose Tremain’s emotionally neglectful childhood growing up in post-war England. After her mother and father get divorced, she is sent off at age ten to a boarding school, compounding the neglect she had already faced. Her mother Jane also went through a traumatic abandonment at boarding school and seems to have been incapable of connecting to Tremain and her siblings. Jane is focused on only her own pleasure, as she gets remarried to a wealthy man and promptly ships the children away from their life. As Tremain puts it: “It’s the endeavor of most abandoned wives to keep their children close to them when their world collapses, but Jane…couldn’t cope with us.”
The writing in this book is spare but emotionally lacerating. Tremain is an excellent writer and is able to get across the bleak loneliness and upheaval of her childhood extremely well. British boarding schools continue to sound like an awful and emotionally traumatizing experience that no child should be subjected to, and we see here the mother’s own boarding school trauma being revisited on her children. Her own emotional stuntedness from being ripped out of her home causes her to be incapable of understanding her children’s emotions. Tremain also explores her beginnings as a writer and her intellectual awakening. The end of the book has a brief summary of how she finally broke free from her mother’s control, but the majority of the book is the exploration of her childhood through finishing school.
I recommend this for people interested in psychological childhood memoirs. It’s quite a good one!