Michele was six when her father was killed in a train crash. ‘There were two casualties: my father, and a nun . . . All I hoped was that he was asleep, and that the nun was, too.’
Thus begins Michele Kirsch’s extraordinary memoir of drug addiction, alcoholism and domestic cleaning. Rarely can a dark memoir have been so comic, or a comic memoir so dark... Just another depressing memoir of drug and alcohol addiction? Well, no. This one is enhanced, made strangely hilarious and given a refreshingly different kind of poignancy, with its 26 ‘cleaning’ interludes. These appear between most chapters, in a different font, and I found myself savouring each one.
Showing great insight into the mindset of addiction, Clean is not a happy story, but Kirsch is conscious of all the ironies in her life, poking fun at her early naiveté and daring us not to laugh at her mishaps. Which, when confronted by anecdotes like the chiropodist pressured to declare her grandfather dead, or her mother being sacked from a soft-porn magazine for lacking gravitas, is just as well.