Tuesday, 3 November 2015

VSH Book Club... Late Fragments Review

This last month's book has been a very different choice for me, as I am not normally a fan of the autobiography. However when I first came cross it I just felt like I had to read it. Maybe it is because I am still relatively new to the mum game and was drawn to the fact that the author Kate was a mum, or maybe it is just because we are all so acutely aware of how big a threat Cancer still is and I haven't actually read any books on the topic. 

I am so glad that now I have. This book made me cry (shocker) but not until the end, which was kind of unexpected. I thought that I would be weeping throughout, but the writing was so surprisingly upbeat and positive for a large part of the book that I found I would frequently forget the bigger picture, and be absorbed by the often funny, and always very real, portrait of day to day family life. Kate Gross was undoubtedly a successful and ambitious women, with an illustrious career. Yet whilst she worked for Tony Blair, and led a life changing charity, she comes across first and foremost as a mother and a wife. And a daughter and a friend. It's no wonder that her blog and subsequently this book have been so popular; this could easily be someone you know filling the pages with their brave words. 

The thing that I enjoyed most about this book was the message, which is delivered in a distinctly non-preachy way. What Kate makes us, or at least me think, is that there is joy to be found in the little things. We all know life is short, but for some, it is too short to even imagine. Faced with the certainty that her twin boys will grow up without her, Kate manages to make us believe in the magic of a swimming lesson or a cuddle from her self declared soulmate. Her wishes for her family's lives to continue are beautiful, and you get the sense of how much her early travelling years shaped her lust for life. 

Kate was a natural born writer. Honest, intelligent and witty, she manages to describe 'the nuisance' in the most effective way I have ever come across with just the right mix of science, minute detail and perspective. I felt like I understood how she felt at every stage of her illness, and why she did. I loved her approach to the spirals of friendship, and her familiar descriptions of the woe that is young adulthood. Most of all however I loved the way in which she writes about her husband and boys, the respect that underpins her feelings towards them bouncing off the pages. The fact that the book is pretty much her gift to them, and her way of always being with them just makes the writing even more noteworthy. 

Although the final chapters are the most emotional to read, I still raised a smile at Kate's description of her need to control everything post departure. As a list fiend myself, I think that I too would try and fit in everything possible task I could in an attempt to exert some control in my absence, and of course to try and make life a little less messy for those left behind. 

I would recommend this book to everyone, but specifically to anyone who knows someone in Kate's shoes, or similar. It provides such an honest insight into what helps when faced with the worst news possible, and what absolutely doesn't, some of which is pretty surprising. It's also a great read for anyone who just sometimes feels that life is whizzing by, and needs a reminder to pause once in a while to appreciate what's around us. It's also great for those who don't like a long read - easy to read and brief, you'll get through it quickly (which is actually a sad thing when I come to think of it, as had Kate's life been longer so would the book). 

So there we go... my rambling thoughts on a book that I loved.  Feel free to share yours!