Content warning: suicide
Author Louise Beech has revealed the harrowing story in which she reflects on her life and the bridge incident that shook her family to the core.
2019. Dawn. The River Humber. A misty February walk. Surprise early daffodils. A picture taken. Then forgotten. Because five hours later, my world shattered.
My mother jumped off the Humber Bridge. Had those yellow flowers not delayed me, I might have been there. Could I have stopped her?
In the aftermath of this violent act, I turned to my writing, to my beloved siblings, to our only uncle. I was forced to look at events that led to this suicide attempt. At relationships wrecked by alcoholism. At chronic depression. At our care records. At my childhood. At my mother. At buried trauma never fully explored before. At myself….
When I much later found the picture of those surprise daffodils, I knew it was time to write about that day. I began typing the story that inspired so many of my fictional characters, that shaped the testing things they endured.
My own story.
Even though I haven’t read all of Louise Beech’s books, I have known of her and followed her for years. She comes across as vivacious, empathetic and great, great fun. Anyone observing her on social media, whether she’s walking for charity or appearing at a book launch, would assume her joie de vivre, charisma and confidence are the result of a happy, safe, secure childhood.
Daffodils therefore stunned me. It is Louise’s shocking, brutally honest account of an abusive childhood. Digging into her past, trying to remember the horrors she had suppressed must have been enormously emotional and frightening. I found this a desperately sad read, only lightened by the wonderful relationship between Louise, her siblings and uncle, together with the hilarious WhatsApp humour and banter they used to cope.
Louise, her twin sisters and brother grew up with a narcissistic, alcoholic mother prone to depression. As little children they had to deal with situations no child should ever have to bear. They suffered utter neglect with their mother often choosing unsuitable men over her own children. My heart ached for them. And yet this book is devoid of self-pity, or appeals for sympathy. Louise simply relates the grim facts of their early lives and how they dealt with them (often with humour). She chronicles family relationships – some totally dysfunctional, and others, like those with their beloved Grandma Roberts, totally perfect.
I was filled with disgust at the behaviour of a number of adults who featured in Louise’s childhood, and am amazed she is so successful today. She’s an award-winning author, in a long-term marriage and has a great relationship with her own children.
I loved the parts of this memoir that dealt with her books, the way she writes, and her painful journey of rejections and disappointments on her road to publication. Particularly I loved how she never gave up, despite her mother having manged to instill in her a huge sense of worthlessness.
Louise mixes up the way she reveals her story. There are conventional chapters, some almost stream-of-consciousness parts, snippets of poetry, excerpts from her care records and powerful letters. The thoughts and memories of her significant others are also recorded, helping to round out Louise’s story. These all keep Daffodils compelling, as do the fascinating titbits about daffodils to start each chapter.
This is not an easy read, but an utterly gripping one.
Daffodils is currently only available as an audiobook, but I hope it will be launched in other formats very soon.
See also: https://suidi.wordpress.com/2021/04/16/this-is-how-we-are-human-by-louise-beech/
About the author:
Louise Beech’s debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick in 2015 and a top ten bestseller on Amazon. The Mountain in my Shoe longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon ‘quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt’. It was also a Must Read in the Sunday Express and a Book of the Year at LoveReadingUK.
The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as ‘engrossing and captivating’ by the Daily Express. It also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year and longlisted for the Polari Prize 2019. Call Me Star Girl hit number one on Kobo. It also longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize and won the Best magazine Big Book Award 2019. I Am Dust was a Top Six pick in Crime Monthly and a LoveReadingUK Monthly Pick. This Is How We Are Human was a Clare Mackintosh August Book of the Month 2021.
Daffodils, her memoir, was released in audiobook 1st April, and Nothing Else, her next novel, is out 23rd June.