Laurel Saville's memoir of life with a once-famous and now drunk and abuse mother is both fascinating and hard to read. Her mother, Anne Ford, was a rising force in fashion design in the fifties until, according the majority of the book, she became disillusioned (or possibly downright lazy), and lives out the rest of her life on dead dreams and inheritances stolen from her children. It's a sad picture of a broken woman, written by a critical daughter who was apparently perfect in every way by the age of six. Much of it is pieced together from a distance as Laurel left her mother's home at the age of 13 and apparently only saw her again two or three times, for a few hours.
After beginning with her mother's horrific murder in the burned out shell of the family home where she was squatting during her final years and spending well over 300 pages tearing the dead woman to shreds, she generously gives the last four or five pages to a detailed explanation of Anne's life before children, which explains so much it should totally be the first chapter. It kind of comes off as an attempt to get readers completely on her side and hating the abusive, mentally ill woman who gave her life, and then in a passing gesture at fairness, casually mentions that she was abused herself and had very little chance of ever being anything other than what she was. Personally, I thought it was too little, too late.
Maybe that's partly because Laurel's writing style is also slightly pretentious, as if she can distance herself from her abysmal beginnings if she just crams in enough five dollar words. She can't help trying to convince us that she really is smarter and better than her parents (her dad was no prince, either). Unfortunately this means she uses a lot of big impressive words that, if you're actually familiar with them (or have a dictionary), you can't help noticing aren't really accurate. It's very subtle, but I came away with the feeling that she was much like her mother than she knew, even after eviscerating both of them all over the floor. In a way, that was the saddest part.