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Motherwell Reviews

Motherwell by Deborah Orr

Motherwell: A Girlhood

Deborah Orr

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1 review

Imprint: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publication date: 23 Jan 2020
ISBN: 9781474611459

A stunning literary memoir about the author's relationship with her complicated mother and childhood for fans of WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?

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5 stars out of 5
Caroline Sanderson
4 Oct 2019

"This is what this utterly riveting, often darkly comic, and astonishingly honest debut memoir "

There are plenty of admirable memoirs which chart their authors' traumatic childhoods and the after-effects thereof. But far fewer grapple with the kind of upbringings that perhaps far more of us had: a complex and tangled mixture of light and shade; with parent-child relationships that were loving but which—as Philip Larkin famously wrote—also left us with character traits and hang-ups that remain with us all our lives. This is what this utterly riveting, often darkly comic, and astonishingly honest debut memoir by award-winning journalist Deborah Orr attempts to do, and she succeeds so brilliantly that for me it ranks with Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight—one of my favourite memoirs of all time—in its understanding of how the places and people we come from make us who we are. While this takes in all her family bonds, centre stage is Orr's relationship with her mother, Win, a woman who, when young, had very little agency about the course her life would take. When at 18 years old Orr left Motherwell—the Scottish town where she was raised and a place she both loved and despised—to go to university, her mother railed against the idea that she could ever want to leave her orbit. The decision set in motion Orr's stellar career and a very different life in London. But of course, she never really got away. None of us do.

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