I’ve recently been thinking about writing a paper on so-called ‘misery memoirs’. It’s not a term I like, but I think it’s probably the easiest way to describe this type of book so that everyone knows what you’re talking about. I find it interesting, courageous and quite astonishing that people can have the guts to spill such horrendous details of their lives onto paper and sell it. Quite what said paper might be about, I’m not sure. But it’s certainly an interesting subject. For those who have been through similar experiences, I imagine it’s useful to read that they are not alone, and that parts of their own experiences which they believed made them weird, or an outsider, or just downright insane, are actually quite normal in the structure of who they are.
I think misery memoirs have an important place in modern literature. Quite what that place is, I’m not sure; but a lot of them are best-sellers. Broken by Shy Keenan is one such book: a heart-rending journey through the life of a girl who was not only misunderstood but actively damaged by everyone from her closest family members to those in authority who were meant to be helping her. It’s a book with a happy ending, because Keenan is incredibly strong. These days, she’s working with Sara Payne to help survivors of child abuse. Worth a look if you like misery memoirs; if you don’t, you’ll probably find it too saddening to read.