Published April 27th, 2023 by Mardle Books
Memoir, Depression and Mental Health Biographies
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Mental health, suicide, abuse, neglect, trauma.
My mother once said to me, ‘I wish you could feel the way I do for eighteen seconds. Just eighteen seconds, so you’d know how awful it is.’
I thought about it. Realised we could all learn from being in another person’s head for eighteen seconds. Eighteen seconds inside Grandma Roberts’ head as she sat alone with her evening cup of tea, us girls upstairs in bed. Eighteen seconds inside one-year-old Colin’s head when he woke up in a foster home without his family. Eighteen seconds inside the head of a girl waiting for her bedroom door to open.
Writer, Louise Beech, looks back on the events that led to the day her mother wrote down her last words, then jumped off the Humber Bridge. She missed witnessing the horror herself by minutes.
Louise recounts the pain and trauma of her childhood alongside her love for her siblings with a delicious dark humour and a profound voice of hope for the future.
“This is my story. No fiction to hide behind.”
February 2019. As author Louise Beech took her usual morning walk she paused to photograph some early daffodils she was surprised to see. Five hours later she gets the devastating news that her mother has jumped from the Humber Bridge. Had Louise not stopped to take that photograph, she might have been there when it happened.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so it feels like the perfect time to be sharing this review. Powerful, poignant and heart-wrenching, Eighteen Seconds is the true story of Louise’s life and the aftermath of the harrowing event that shook her family to its core. It was hard-hitting and emotional from the start, and I cried many times while listening to the audio version of this book. But this is Louise Beech, and even the most solemn of stories cannot be told without her trademark wit, and there is lots of laughter amongst the tears. However, this isn’t only her story. It is also the story of her family, and includes interviews and quotes from her siblings and other family members that discuss how events impacted them. The strong bond Ms. Beech shares with her siblings is clear to see, and I loved their banter and their sense of humour, which they use as a coping mechanism and a way to lighten the darkest of times. I loved her reflections of her grandmother and the special relationship they shared. These were deeply moving and made me think of my own Nan, who I was very close to.
“… humour is the wonky mirror for emotions often too difficult to look at directly.”
This isn’t an easy read, but it is an important one, featuring topics such as trauma, mental health, suicide, and abuse. It also highlights how dysfunction, pain and trauma don’t only affect us in that moment, but our whole lives, with ripple effects trickling down through the generations as we attempt to not only survive, but flourish, and break those harmful cycles. And Louise seems to have achieved this. Her love for her own children shines brightest of all in this book and it is evident she is a wonderful mother. I admired her ability to help her children through their problems while navigating her own pain and breaking those toxic cycles.
“I discovered the one thing that thawed me: writing.”
There is no question that Beech is a talented author. She is one of my favourite authors and I’ve loved every book of hers that I’ve read. Consequently, I expected this book to be well written, but I was unprepared for just how beautiful, potent and unflinching her prose would be this time around. The narration was fantastic and perfectly conveyed the appropriate emotions for the listener while bringing to life those whose stories are being told. Though my own story is obviously different, her story resonated with me on a personal level in many ways, particularly the exploration of the effects of trauma in chapter five. I laughed, cried, raged, and felt every emotion in between as I was swept away by this phenomenal and courageous memoir.
Eighteen Seconds is a tableau of heartbreak, healing, and forgiveness that demands to be read. Piercingly frank, raw, heartrending, and courageous, it never shies away from the pain and messiness of family and life, striking a resonant chord as it pulls on your heartstrings and then ties them back together with uplifting humour. Louise’s story is one I will never forget and I applaud her for being brave enough to share it with the world. It is a reminder that those who have been through the greatest pain often have the kindest hearts and brightest smiles, and my admiration for this author has grown after reading her story.
Bravo, Louise, and thank you.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Louise’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. This Is How We Are Human was a Clare Mackintosh August Book of the Month 2021. Audiobook memoir Daffodils came out in 2022, and novel Nothing Else too. Her memoir is coming in paperback as Eighteen Seconds April 2023.
Louise also writes as Louise Swanson.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx
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