William Palmer

Hidden Lives

Family Romance: A Memoir


Faber & Faber 394pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The title of John Lanchester’s new book makes a welcome change in the recent rush of family memoirs and all the assorted thuggery and buggery inflicted on their poor authors by alcoholic or insane mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts and uncles. Lanchester even admits, ‘I had a happy childhood.’

He was born in 1962 and ‘by the time I was three years old, I’d lived at ten different addresses in six different countries’. Novelists, and Lanchester is a very good one, often have a dislocated start in life. Indeed, his whole life has a rather older, anachronistic feel to it than you would expect from someone only in his mid-forties. His parents came from two worlds which seem immeasurably far away now: his mother was from the priest-ridden Ireland of the Twenties, and his father, born in Cape Town, spent most of his life in Far Eastern outposts of the British Empire. Lanchester’s book is a recreation of his parents’ lives and an expression of love. But it is also an investigation of family secrets and lies – not many sons discover that their mother had been a nun, not once, but twice, and that she was, quite literally, not who she said she was.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,