13 April 2010

Nice Recovery

By Susan Juby
Published by Penguin Group (Canada)
First published March 2010

"Nice Recovery" is Susan Juby's memoir of her addictions. Beginning at age fourteen, Juby embarks on a young-adult journey into alcoholism, shoplifting, fist-fighting, drugs, and smoking (as opposed to her previous life of reading, dressage, and being a typical pre-teen misfit). She tells her story with what appears to me to be a lot of truth and without a lot of holding back; when she was bad, she was bad. I enjoy her writing style and knew I would like her when I read these lines in the preface:

"If telling these stories about addiction and recovery helps one person, it will have been worth it. Just please don't sic the accuracy police on me. I've done the best I can with the tattered remnants of my abused memory. I remember enough."

Juby writes of very bad times indeed - drunken blackouts, being beaten, waking up in strange places, being kicked out of college. But she tempers the seriousness of her life with a finely-placed sense of humour, letting us laugh without losing sight of how crap her life actually was.

Where she did lose me, though, was at Part III. This is where Juby stops sharing her life (the memoir) and starts writing an entirely different book on how treatment centres work and how AA and NA meetings are run. All good information, I'm sure, but I didn't want to read it - I wanted to read more of Juby's life and recovery.

All in all, however, a well-written, revealing memoir.

09 April 2010

The Last Great Dance On Earth

By Sandra Gulland
Published by Headline Book Publishing
First published 2001

"The Last Great Dance On Earth is a work of fiction based on (and inspired by) the extraordinary life of Josephine Bonaparte."

This, the last book in the Josephine trilogy, had me sobbing throughout. What a life! What a power! What a woman! I'm almost at a loss for words. I've always enjoyed historical fiction, but what made this book so spectacular for me was the fact that I was unaware of a huge portion of the history that surrounded the Bonaparte family. The wars are written about in great detail; not just the physical, geographical wars, but the warring within the Bonaparte family. How Napoleon and Josephine managed to stay together as long as they did with the likes of Napoleon's family plotting against them at every turn is astonishing.

Gulland writes these books using Josephine's voice and does such an outstanding job that you feel Josephine's every pain, every worry, and every moment of happiness.

This is such a well-written book that, even though you know how it ends, you read it with a lump in your throat and an eagerness to find out what happens next.

Well done, Sandra Gulland!