e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Memoir and mystery

Secret Orchard coverWho is Muriel and what happened to her to turn her life into a dysfunctional calamity and threaten to do the same to her children? Even at the end of this memoir, set in London in the early to mid 20th century, we have no certainties, only likelihoods.

Muriel’s character was full of discords: in peacetime she was a needy drunk, but in two world wars she was efficient, hardworking and willing to take her work to the front line.

Diana Petre was her daughter and struggled with a confused and chaotic upbringing. But her book is anything but chaotic; in a plain but very clear style she analyses events and feelings, keeps track of several lives and gives us a clear vision of her mother and of Roger Ackerley, her father.

This book is part memoir and part ‘true story’ mystery, and even though the mystery is only partly solved, it is a satisfying read.

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