“A beautiful, wise book. It deals with the some of the grimmest aspects of human experience, but it is also one of the most genuinely up-lifting works I have read in years. Emma Brockes’ superb, clear-eyed narration is an object lesson for any aspiring memoir-writer. She Left Me the Gun deserves to become a classic.” Zoe Heller
When Emma Brockes was ten years old, her mother said ‘One day I will tell you the story of my life and you will be amazed.’ Growing up in a tranquil English village, Emma knew very little of her mother’s life before her. She knew Paula had grown up in South Africa and had seven siblings. She had been told stories about deadly snakes and hailstones the size of golf balls.
There was mention, once, of a trial. But most of the past was a mystery. When her mother dies of cancer, Emma – by then a successful journalist at the Guardian – is free to investigate the untold story.
Her search begins in the Colindale library but then takes her to South Africa, to the extended family she has never met and their accounts of a childhood so different to her own. She encounters versions of the life her mother chose to leave behind – and realises what a gift her mother gave her. Part investigation, part travelogue, part elegy, She Left Me the Gun is a gripping, funny and clear-eyed account of a writer’s search for her mother’s story.