Love or Nearest Offer - Adele Geras Books

Tara Westover's Educated - reviewed by Adele Geras

July 22, 2019 by Adèle Geras

The cover of Tara Westover's Educated is striking. The passage quoted on the back of the book tells you something of what this memoir is about: the author's journey from Idaho to a PhD from Cambridge, a path strewn with astonishing descriptions of life in her extraordinary family. It also demonstrates some of the power of Westover's writing style: plain, sinewy and elegant, all at once.

You couldn't make it up... that's what people say when what they've read or seen takes them aback to such an extent that they find it an effort to (in another popular form of words) get their heads round it.

I readEducated about two months ago and I'm still thinking about it. It's been universally praised. I predict that it will be on every shortlist it can possibly be on. It will be passed from one friend to another and anyone who reads it will come away moved, touched, horrified and above all knocked sideways by Westover's gift for telling her story in such a powerful and resonant way. She writes most beautifully, with a gift for conveying at the same time the terrible, violent, abusive things that attended her childhood and family life and at the same time, the tenacity of the bonds she feels binding her to her parents and siblings.

She sees them clearly as they are: a man and a woman adhering to a Survivalist Mormon belief so powerful and paranoid that the children are unregistered with school or any other government agency and have spent their entire lives working in their father's scrapyard (with no Health or Safety supervision) or, in the case of the girls, helping with their mother's herbal remedies for family and neighbours. Westover's mother is a self-taught midwife and in thrall to her narcissistic and overbearing husband. Some of her siblings are more sympathetic than others, and one brother is a brutal abuser. The physical harm described in the book is startling and deeply shocking. If this were fiction (you couldn't make it up) your editor would say: you can't put that in your novel. No one would believe it. But it did happen to Westover and how she escaped her family and gained a brilliant PhD from Cambridge University can be seen as an (again, scarcely believable) happy ending.

But Cambridge is not unalloyed bliss. Tara Westover has suffered greatly and hasn't been in contact with most of her family for years.

I finished this book full of admiration for its courageous and hugely talented writer and I hope very much that she finds happiness in her life from now on. I can't wait to read her next book, whatever it turns out to be, and I can safely say that if you start readingEducated, you will not be able to put it down. And you certainly won't be able to forget it.

Educatedis published by Hutchinson.

Adèle Geras has published more than 100 books for readers of all ages. Her first book was Tea at Mrs Manderby's, which was published in 1976. Her first full-length novel was The Girls in the Velvet Frame. Other works include Troy (shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and Highly Commended for the Carnegie Medal) Ithaka, Happy Ever After (previously published as the Egerton Hall Trilogy), Silent Snow, Secret Snow, and A Thousand Yards of Sea. Her novels for adults include: Facing the Light, Hester's Story, Made in Heaven, and A Hidden Life.

Adèle Geras

Author

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I was born in Jerusalem in 1944 and spent my early childhood in many different countries because my father was in the Colonial Service. Before I was eleven, I'd lived in Cyprus, Nigeria, and North Borneo and later my parents were also sent to the Gambia and Tanganyika (now Tanzania)... read more.

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