Biography & Memoir Divided Lines by Lyndall Gordon | Book Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on June 12th, 2014


Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter by Lyndall Gordon

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Blurb: Lyndall Gordon was born in 1941 in Cape Town, a place from which `a ship takes fourteen days to reach anywhere that matters’. Born to a mother whose mysterious illness confined her for years to life indoors, Lyndall was her secret sharer, a child who grew to know life through books, story-telling and her mother’s own writings. It was an exciting, precious world, pure and rich in dreams and imagination – untainted by the demands of reality. But a daughter grows up. Despite her own inability to leave home for long, Lyndall’s mother believed in migration, a belief that became almost a necessity once the horrors of apartheid gripped their country. Lyndall loves the rocks, the sea, the light of Cape Town, but, struggling to achieve a life approved by her mother, she tries and makes a failure of living in Israel and then, back once again in her beloved South Africa she marries and moves with her husband to New York. It’s in America in 1968 when suddenly Lyndall realises she cannot be, and does not want to be, the woman, the daughter and the mother her mother wants her to be. This is a wonderfully layered memoir about the expectations of love and duty between mother and daughter. The particular time and place, the people and the situation are Lyndall’s, but the division between generations, the pain and the joy of being a daughter are everywoman’s.

(Virago, 2014)

Juliet Nicolson, London Evening Standard 

“This is a disturbing and often beautiful book that confronts heritage, selfishness, infidelity and obsessive secrecy and which explores and ultimately celebrates the lifelong emotional seesaw between parent and child.”

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Claire Harman, The Guardian 

“One feels that as a scrupulous biographer, Gordon has laid out all the evidence, but as a memoirist draws back from the conclusions it would be too undaughterly to articulate.”

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