Sunday, 11 November 2012

Truth and Beauty

'Lucy was writing, but it came in short bursts and the bursts weren't coming often enough to bring her up to the number of pages she needed.  In February she threw a congratulations, You've Wasted Half Your Fellowship party and everyone came and danced in her apartment and had a wonderful time.'
I've been absorbed in this poignant memoir about the friendship between Ann Patchett and the poet and writer Lucy Grealy which lasted from their meeting as aspiring young writers at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1985, throughout the publication of their respective books to Lucy's death in 2002.

Lucy suffered from cancer as a child which damaged her mouth and jaw and continually undergoes surgery to reshape her face.  Constantly in pain she suffers from depression and finds it difficult to sustain relationships with men.  She blames all of her problems on her face and although she is adored by her many friends who provide her with constant moral and financial support she is needy and demanding.

Lucy finds writing success before Ann, her book Autobiography of a Face becomes a bestseller and Lucy appears on Oprah and begins a round of book tours and interviews.  Adoring the high life she spends her next advance before the book is written and slowly descends into a spiral of missed deadlines, pain killers and continual operations to re-shape her face and teeth.

Ann's slow and steady approach to her writing career leads eventually to the huge success of Bel Canto in 2001.  Lucy dies of an overdose in 2002.

It must be said  that Lucy's sister opposed the portrayal of Lucy in Truth and Beauty.  Nevertheless I found this a haunting memoir about friendship, loss, art and literature. One of my favourite reads this year.


Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

I think haunting is the perfect word for this. It was difficult for me to read but I thought it was an incredible, beautifully-written book and I remember it vividly.

Nadia said...

Wow, this sounds amazing. I'm so glad you read it and reviewed it, because I'm not sure I would have heard of it otherwise. This one just sounds so good, that I'm ordering it today. Thanks so much! I love that you described it as haunting - those are my favorite types of books, the ones that stay with you.

Bellezza said...

Such a tragic story, which nevertheless sounds fascinating as you tell of it here. Weirdly, I enjoy stories of struggles because they help me accept my own. Or, look in more severe gratitude for what I have.

Anbolyn said...

This is a very powerful and moving portrayal of friendship. I loved it and agree with Nadia that is stays with you.

Grad said...

This sounds wonderful...and sad. From reading your post and the comments of others who have read it, it will be something I'll be looking for in the future. Thanks for a lovely review.

JoAnn said...

This was one of my favorite books the year I read it, too. Went to the library and checked out Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face immediately after finishing. Highly recommended!

Penny O'Neill said...

I really must read this, though I know it will haunt me. Thank you for this review.

Sunday Taylor said...

I have enjoyed Ann Patchett's books in the past and this sounds very interesting. Thanks for the review, I will now seek this one out.

Ellen said...

I do like Ann Patchett's writing, and I will definitely seek this out, thank you.

Vintage Reading said...

Claire, yes it was painful at times, but a wonderful story. I'm the same age as Patchett so when she writes about a passion for Jane Fonda's aerobics in the 80s I could relate to it completely!

Hi Nadia, hope you do get a change to read and review it - always like others opinions on books I enjoy!

Bellezza, yes you appreciate what you have so much more when you read of the struggles of others.

Anbolyn, so glad others enjoyed this, too. I suppose 'enjoyed' seems the wrong word given the story but the passion for writing of Ann and Lucy is so powerful.

Grad, hope you get the chance to read and review it.

JoAnn, yes I think will this go on my list of the year's favourites - almost that time to start looking back over our reading year!

Penny, hope I get to read your review if you do read it.

Sunday, hi, Bel Canto is my favourite of her novels, but I didn't know until reading this that she could write non-fic so well.

Ellen, please post a review if you read it.