From time to time, though, I read memoirs, mainly because I am sent them to review or because I am writing a feature about someone with a story to tell. Two memoirs I’ve really enjoyed this summer are Blue by John Sutherland and Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.
Blue is a beautiful book. It’s about many things, but first and foremost it’s about a senior policeman’s breakdown. John Sutherland was flying high in the Metropolitan Police when he suffered a dramatic collapse. He writes extremely movingly about his mental health – and includes the best description of depression I have ever encountered. But it’s also a love letter to the Police. It’s not just the job John happened to do, but his vocation.
He’s absolutely passionate about policing, while clear eyed and honest about its shortcomings. It’s too easy to make lazy assumptions, judgement even, about professions you know little about. This book offers a real insight. And John was utterly charming, too. Reflective, honest and self-deprecating. You can read the interview here.
I read the book for its story – I had a commission, after all – but it stuck in my mind because it is so beautifully written, and profound. If you enjoyed Henry Marsh’s hugely popular book, Do No Harm, about being a neurosurgeon, you’ll enjoy Blue.
Priestdaddy is something else entirely. I’ve reviewed this for the Church Times but since my review hasn’t been published yet, I won’t say too much. For now, I’ll just say it’s a bit of a one-off. An American poet writes about her extraordinary upbringing. Her father is a Roman Catholic priest and a father of five. She writes with extraordinary beauty and brio. I thought it tailed off a bit towards the end, but it’s a roller-coaster read, which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend.