What is it to be educated? Is it to have spent every day of your life from the age of four until the age of twenty-one in a classroom? Is it the ability to read and write? How about being able to reflect deeply on your own personal experiences?
Tara Westover was not educated in the way one might expect. She did not have school records. In fact, she didn’t have medical records. Tara Westover didn’t even have a birth certificate – officially, she didn’t exist. Tara grew up in Idaho with a father who didn’t trust in intervention.
From the moment she was born, Tara was to be taught to prepare for the End of Days. Her mother ‘home-schooled’ Tara and some of her siblings while their father proselytised about the dangers posed by doctors, teachers, government and law enforcement.
At the age of sixteen, Tara decided to educate herself. That decision took her to Harvard and then to Cambridge.
Having recently heard Tara talk at Forum Books about her experiences growing up a Mormon with an increasingly radical father and erratic brother, I was moved by the erudite way in which she spoke about her unusual childhood and her decision to make a change in her life.
‘Educated‘ is a beautifully written memoir. Westover’s prose is almost lyrical, featuring evocative descriptions of the rolling hills. Her gorgeous writing is juxtaposed with the terror I felt when reading about some of the things she had lived through. At times, the events were so out of my sphere of understanding, I had to check online that this was a memoir and not fiction!
Throughout ‘Educated‘, there is a sense of not quite knowing what will happen next. At times, the tension was almost too much to bear. Westover masterfully allows the reader to tread the fine line she walked on a daily basis. There is also a feeling of sadness and grief that pervades this memoir. Ultimately, though, ‘Educated‘ is a hopeful book about the power of taking control and never giving up.
Tara Westover is my hero.
Posted in Books, reviews, Writing
Tagged book, descriptions, educated, fiction, memoir, prose, read, reader, tension, write, writing, written
It’s my pleasure today to share a sneak peek from ‘Half a World Away‘ by Sue Haasler. I really hope this extract whets your appetite.
My thanks to Dome Press and Sue Haasler for allowing me to be a part of the blog tour for this brilliant book.
HALF A WORLD AWAY
As he reached the door of his flat, out of habit, he glanced down the stairwell and something caught his eye. Picking up the coal bucket he’d left by the door, he walked down the next flight of steps. The paper was lying crumpled in a corner, kicked and trodden on by various passing feet. He picked it up, glanced at it, and dropped it into the bucket as if it was toxic. He walked quickly back up the steps and almost forgot to breathe until he was safely inside the flat, door double-locked.
He took off his scarf, folded it neatly and placed it on the polished surface of the old hall table. Opening a drawer in the table he took out a notebook. The Yellowish pages were ruled in faint grey squares. Picking up a pen, he entered the date – April 17th 1987 – and the name of his elderly neighbour, Frau Bergman. Next to that he noted the time and the word COAL. There was nothing else to add, so he picked up a ruler, drew a neat line and then made another entry for her neighbours. Flicking back a couple of pages, he found he already had quite a few entries about these neighbours, the Schmidts. The son: who came and went at all hours of the day and had recently adopted punk clothing. The mother: who occasionally flaunted carrier bags from Western supermarkets. The father: who seemed overly fond of drink.
The piece of paper lying at the bottom of the empty coal bucket made him feel uncomfortable. He picked it out with a thumb and forefinger and placed it on the table. Who had brought such a thing in to his house? He’d bet it was that Schmidt boy from upstairs. He looked just the type to go round with his pockets full of this kind of rubbish. Peace? Disarmament? It was nothing but thinly-disguised propaganda against the state. Very poorly printed, too. He placed it between the endpapers at the back of the book, closed the book and replaced it in the desk drawer. Behind it were five other identical books, all full of information. Each little entry on its own was nothing. It was all about the patterns, the trends. It was about being observant and meticulous, ensuring nothing was missed. It was about safety.
Hearing the voices on the stairs, Detlef Ohm returned to the peephole and softly brushed the cover aside.
About ‘Half a World Away‘
East Berlin, 1987.
Alex is a talented saxophonist, flirting with ‘Western’ jazz as well as girls. When he meets Nicky – a beautiful English girl visiting East Berlin as an au pair – she makes him feel that his dreams could become reality.
Detlev’s love for his country has always been enough for him, until Alex makes him feel things he never thought possible. But what use is his passion when its object doesn’t even know he exists?
As Alex meets a new group of musicians, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere – and Detlev’s unrequited feelings threaten to endanger them all.
Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University.
After graduating, she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults.
Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.
Sue has written four books, ‘True Colours‘, ‘Time after Time‘, ‘Two’s Company‘ and ‘Better Than the Real Thing‘. ‘Two’s Company‘ was optioned for film by Warner Bros.
She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to ‘Holby City‘. She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.
Posted in Blog Tour, Books, Writing
Tagged book, Books, commissioned, disability, disabled, English, film, graduating, Linguistics, literature, novel, novels, written