2009: 111. Family Romance

“One of the most famous things ever written about family life is the opening sentence of Anna Karenina. “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  It’s a magnificent line, so sonorous and resonant that it makes it easy for us not to notice it isn’t true.”

Family Romance: A Love Story, John Lancaster

       This is a grand book.  I thought that I’d had enough of the hard luck personal story, but I grabbed this at the library and loved it.  It is the story of Lancaster’s parents and how they made him who he is (as all of our parents do) - his father, the repressed banker who grew up in the Far East, but was separated from his parents during the war when he went to school in Australia, and, oh, they went to a Japanese prison camp for the duration of the war.  As if that wouldn’t cast enough of a shadow over one’s youth, get a load of his mother’s story.  She was a NUN.  Spent ten + years in the convent, and lied about her past to both her husband and her son.  He didn’t even figure out the truth until after her death.  And if that wasn’t story enough (and it’s a pretty good story - my goodness, can you imagine finding out your mother was a secret nun?), the book is really well-written.  The benefit of having a crazy life story written by a professional novelist is that the crazy tale is supported by a real analysis and emotion and insight into his family’s history and how it shaped him and a writer and as a man.  It made me want to read his novels, and if you have any interest in fascinating human stories you will want to read this memoir - even if you think you’re memoir-ed out. 

Date/Place Completed:  September 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017