30 Sep 2011


The 69th book read in my ......

There is a moment when, as a little girl, Jackie Kay, realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad. Later in life, and pregnant with her own son, she decides to trace her birth parents. On a journey full of unexpected twists, turns and deep emotions she discovers that inheritance is about much more than genes: that we are shaped by songs as much as by cells, and that what triumphs, ultimately, is love.
...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Jonathan is suddenly there in the hotel corridor leading to the swimming-pool area.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 122): Now, when we go on family holidays, I drive and my parents sit in the back; perhaps that's when to date the strange reversal of roles that happens between parent and child.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A reading group read, I have no intention of buying a copy.

I was quite excited by the thought of this book until I realised it was not fiction as I had first thought but a memoir.

Now as many of you know I'm not too keen on memoirs but as this was a reading group read I felt obliged to at least give it a try ..... after all I might have even enjoyed it.

Except, try as I might, I didn't.

Written by poet and author Jackie Kay (it turns out she is also a lecturer at our local university)Red Dust Road is the story of a woman of mixed parentage who was adopted as a child. Chronicling the years between 1969 when Jackie was 7 until 2009 by which time she has decided to meet her birth parents the book was warmly received by many critics many of whom thought it a humourous, heart-warming read.

Homourous? Well, it certainly had its moments, moments generally involving Jackie's biological father, a self-styled preacher and healer. The only problem being I felt a bit guilty that I found myself laughing at him and his beliefs - something which didn't sit comfortably with me.

Heart-warming? In a way, yes. I couldn't fail to be moved by Jackie's biological mothers frailty but on the whole I just couldn't bring myself to have any true depth of feeling for any of these people.

Other things that I just didn't like ........

Some of the chapters seemed unnecessary, almost superfluous. And though Jackie was in fact probably trying to illustrate certain points ('we are shaped by songs as much as by cells' for example), at times it almost seemed that certain passages had been added as a means of padding out the story, of bringing it to a required number of pages.

The author could be repetive in detailing her encounters with her birth parents.

The one thing I really liked about the book?

The fact that though life was sometimes difficult for Jackie as a child and she did on occassion meet with racism from both children and adults, Red Dust Road, though it did mention some episodes, did not dwell on them making this a read that dwelt more on the positive than the negative.


Kelly said...

I'm a bit "iffy" when it comes to memoirs and I don't think this one appeals to me much from your description. Sorry it wasn't what you expected, either.

animewookie said...

I know what you mean by padding the pages...that very much bothers me in a book. Cute cover though :D

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Nope not a book for me, but it could have been. At least there was something you did like about the book. At least I liked your review!! :)

Jenners said...

Memoirs are a tricky road. They can be wonderful but they can also fall a bit flat for the reader, especially when you're gearing up for fiction.

naida said...

Memoirs can be hit or miss. Too bad this one dissapointed. Thanks for the honest review.