16 May 2011

Reading My Father; Alexandra Styron

Reading My Father: A MemoirReading My Father: A Memoir by Alexandra Styron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I hesitated to read this, thinking it would be a version of Mommy Dearest, but that is not the case here. Ms. Styron has written an interesting, heartfelt appreciation of the writer, the man and her father, William Styron.
Like most children, she grew up knowing one side of Daddy: the sometimes funny, sometimes drunk, sometimes terrifyingly angry person living in the house. Through the Duke University archives she discovers the man, thanks to his letters to his father and others, and the writer, thanks to his drafts and other writings. The portrait painted is complex and while her daughter's point-of-view never quite disappears you can see her appreciating the sides of him she didn't know and reconciling with the Daddy she did.

This isn't a linear memoir, which works well. Styron's descent into depression in 1985 (and again in 2000) is the thread that holds her story together. I wondered if he was depressed prior to then, how much of the despair was covered by the alcohol and the rage.

One never really knows one's parents, but reading this I get the sense that Ms. Styron now knows her father better than most.

ARC provided by publisher.

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