Saturday, January 2, 2016

Greythorne by L. M. Merrington | Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Greythorne by L. M. Merrington
I read most of Greythorne on two train trips, one into the city and one back home, and in both directions I found myself wishing my destination was further away so that I could remain seated and continue to read. It’s vividly-written and gripping but it’s also short, which means that the anxiety you feel about how it’s all going to end doesn’t go on for long enough to cause any serious health concerns (I’m not big on thrillers, but this was a level of thrill my poor heart could cope with). Greythorne tells the tale of Nell Featherstone, a governess who starts working at the mysterious Greythorne Manor with little Sophie, whose father is the mysterious Nathaniel Greythorne and whose mother mysteriously died not too long ago (is ‘mysterious’ even a word? Its starting to look weird). The book starts off rather Jane Eyre-y, with a sinisterness woven into it that reminded me of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (I should mention I haven’t read either of these for years, so it may be the vibe I’m remembering rather than the actual stories…), but, despite these similarities, it was completely unpredictable and overall an absolute cracker of a read.*

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I seem to be drawn to memoirs, even though many annoy me. The question I have about everything I read – Why are you telling me this?! – particularly bothers me while reading memoirs, yet I still find myself attracted to them more than any other genre of writing.** In the last few months I’ve read The Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland, which I liked, and Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover, which I really liked, and then Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I flipping LOVED. In all my memoir-reading, I’ve realised that it doesn’t take a dramatic childhood to make an excellent memoir, it takes a good writer and a single theme tying everything together; Cheryl Strayed’s writing is GOOD, and reading about her hike made me want to shove everything into a backpack and find my nearest bush track more than anything anywhere ever. Wild is beautiful and painful and brilliantly-crafted and I found it movingly relate-able despite the fact that I have almost nothing at all in common with Strayed. I think it’s the best memoir I’ve ever read.


* I was tossing up for a while whether or not to include this footnote... A few years ago I met L. M. Merrington, the author of Greythorne, through this blog, so it took me a little while after starting to read her book to shut up the voice in my brain that kept shrieking “OH MY GOODNESS, LOU WROTE THIS!!!!” and to simply enjoy the story. I already knew she was a gifted writer with an enviable vocabulary (both of which Greythorne demonstrates well), but it takes an extra special sort of amazingness to not only write a complete novel but to then have it published, and it was very exciting for me to order, receive, read, and then thoroughly enjoy the fruit of her labour.

** Is this hypocritical coming from a blogger? Most often my answers to the Why are you writing this?! question are, “Because I think someone may relate to it,” “Because I think someone else will find it funny, too” or “Because I want to remember it later when I read back over my blog.” I have cut out many a paragraph which doesn’t pass the Why?! test. You’re welcome.

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