Thursday, 19 March 2015

Not so Fun Home

I reviewed Alison Bechdel's book 'Are You My Mother?' nearly two years ago and finally got around to requesting 'Fun Home', which recounts her childhood and her equally contorted relationship with her father.  She grows up in a funeral home, accustomed to the presence of death and the absence of parental interest. Maybe it just shows quite how resilient children are, and their life is just their life, they do not have expectations and so do not have any sense of being neglected or let down.
 Clearly she needs something from him, perhaps even just his acknowledgement, but the 'What' in the middle of this picture expresses the frustration that seems to be his only response to her presence.
 And he needs something from her, periodically trying to make her into the 'proper' little girl that she so vehemently resists being. Even the connection she makes with him later through their shared love of literature becomes stifling. 
 You wonder if the presence of extensive childhood diaries gives her the opportunity to re-analyse this period of her life, to try and pick apart what she experienced and reinterpret it in light of what she comes to know later. The book is in some ways just a collection of anecdotes but each one draws you into her life and allows to you watch the torturous struggle to make sense of her identity. The emotional isolation and obsessive behaviour that marks her childhood is quite heartrending and, again, I did not find it in any way funny. I think I related far too much to the child she was, wanting to wrap her up and take care of her. And, again, while I do sometimes wonder at how little memory I seem to have of my own, it did not make me wish for a more interesting childhood.

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