Family Romance: A Memoir

Family Romance: A Memoir

John Lanchester

Language: English

Pages: 282

ISBN: B0184X99L0

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


First published in 2007 by Faber and Faber Ltd

In this acclaimed memoir from the award-winning author of Fragrant Harbour, John Lanchester pieces together his family's past and uncovers their extraordinary secrets - from his grandparents' life in colonial Rhodesia to his mother's time as a nun - with clear-eyed compassion.

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under the Taliban. In this world, one of the worst things you could be was a spoiled priest or an ex-nun. Just as the priest and nun had a high status, there was nothing lower or less admirable than someone who had failed in the religious life. It was a practical failure but also a deeper, more staining, more intimate shame. This may have had something to do with sex: nuns and priests were supposed to have renounced the flesh, so to have failed in the religious life was to have been overcome by

himself – is apparent in the boast that he has miraculously zoomed up to five foot eleven. Since he was never in his life a fraction over five foot eight, this was an odd claim to make. Perhaps it is a clue to the fact that this whole letter is an untruth; its pretence at normality is a lie. And perhaps he wanted to say something comforting, because he thought he might never see his mother again, and he thought that his father might already be dead. The pain beneath what is being said comes

months. It was no great surprise to me – thanks to your having warned me so well that it was to be expected. I am very happy that I got to know Dad well during my leave, so that I now have a clear picture of him, less warped by the antagonism which till my leave, I am afraid, prevented me from seeing him as he was. What a good man he was in so many ways – not petty or small minded, charitable, kind, not bearing any malice. Only by a hairsbreadth was he not a very good man: for he was a difficult

to calm as much by his presence as anything else. But Julie didn’t seem to know how to bring that part of herself to bear. My first attempt at staying at a friend’s house for a sleepover was when I was about eight, and that was another bust. His home was on the Peak, and again I was terrified that it would be physically impossible to get home: the house would be washed away, or the road would be washed away, or some such thing. (I had seen the effect of floods, and had once seen this very road

a scared one, and – since every fear is a desire – part of me absolutely pined for the idea of being away, away, as far away as possible. By the age of nine or so I was very much aware that there was a much, much bigger world than that of Hong Kong. There were places, for instance, where I could have a bicycle. A bicycle! Hong Kong Island, which is essentially a single steep rock permanently choked with traffic, was not a place where a child could head off on a bicycle – though I did have one, a

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