Whose Memory?

Anyone out there who has read my memoir, The Baby Box, could be forgiven for assuming that I am an only child. One friend certainly did and said that being an only child explained why my mother was so harsh with me. No, my mother was harsh because I upset the middle-class, domestic apple-cart big time. I have two brothers. There, now I’ve said it and every reader knows they do not feature in my memoir.

Why? My reason for not including them in my story was that my memory did not record them playing, not only not a big part, but a part at all. Their presence would have been a distraction at least, at worst a muddling of the story-line. Does any writer include characters in a novel who play no part in that novel? No. Do all writers, when editing, look for bit-players which have no effect on the drama of the novel and either cut them or re-write their role ? Yes.

Therefore, when planning my memoir, I decided that, as I had no picture of my brothers being at the major scenes, their presence would be redundant. Was the the right decision? From the point of view of the unadulterated truth – No. From the point of view of the structure and pace of the narrative – Yes.

But last weekend, my husband and I spent a happy day with my younger brother and his wife at their home, eating, drinking and talking. Eventually, about the memoir.

And my brother revealed that he was ‘in’ at least one scene in the book, even if ‘off stage’  (not present from my point of view) and he was certainly aware of the existence of other dramatic moments and did take part later in the story even if only as an on-looker.

I have yet to ask my other brother if he remembers these incidents as well.

So was I wrong to omit them from the book? I don’t think I was.

The Baby Box is a memoir, my memoir, from my point of view and, as I have made clear in the text, only includes the scenes and dialogue I clearly remember. That’s the only way I could have written a memoir, by being one hundred percent sure the narrative was accurate as far as it went.

The interesting point about all this, is that different memories, even within the same family, remember radically different aspects of the same event. Neither is right or wrong. But one memory is relevant, the other not.

One of the joys of being a writer is that it’s the writer who has the responsibility and joys of making the decision of what goes on the page and what doesn’t.

If you are a new follower of this blog and the above means nothing to you, read the last few earlier blogs and then click on the page Buy The Book. Thank you.

This photo was taken in Scotland when I was 10 years old.

3 thoughts on “Whose Memory?

    • Sibel Roller says:

      I don’t think you were wrong to omit your brothers from your memoir if they didn’t play a big role (and especially if they played no role at all) in the story. Other memoirists do it, too.

      I’ve recently finished reading Nick Barlay’s “Scattered Ghosts,” a story of the author’s family’s survival through the Second World War, the Holocaust and the Hungarian revolution in 1956. The book is beautifully written – it’s almost lyrical in places. I would recommend it to all lovers of memoir. Nick omitted his brother from the book even though he was present in some of the important scenes in the book. Fortunately, the brother did not take offence. He just said: “You’ve airbrushed me out.” It looks like your younger brother got airbrushed out, too. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to mind as you are still eating, drinking and talking together!


If you enjoyed this, please leave a comment to join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s