Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Memoir Monday... The Girl On The Wall: One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott

The Saying Goes, Life is a Tapestry...

Back of the Book... As the clock struck midnight on 31 December 1999, Jean Baggott vowed that from that point on her life would be devoted to the happiness of ‘the girl on the wall’ – a 1948 photograph taken of Jean when she was eleven. Reflecting on her hopes and dreams 60 years on from that photo, Jean – a talented needlewoman – has stitched a remarkable tapestry looking back on her life and the changing world around her. Inspired by a ceiling in Lincolnshire’s Burghley House and by the history degree on which she embarked in her late sixties, the tapestry tells the moving story of an ordinary young girl from the Black Country, growing up in extraordinary times.

The tapestry, which took sixteen months to complete, consists of 73 interlocking circles, giving a unique portrait of everyday life for the working people of the industrialised West Midlands. Each chapter of her book relates to one circle in the tapestry as Jean explores the memories the circle evokes. Jean’s vivid recollections of growing up in a house where the bath hung on a nail in the yard, and children listened to Dick Barton on the radio while their mothers made rag rugs, conjure up a fascinating world now all but forgotten. Some circles explore world events such as the first moon landings and the Cuban missile crisis; others are filled with memories of washdays, childhood illnesses, wartime rationing and games played in the fields and streets beyond Jean’s two-up, two-down terraced home.

The Girl On The Wall: One Life's Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott is extraordinary. In an era with loads of tell-all celebrity memoirs, this is a memoir that will truly stand out. Rich in history, and interesting as all heck, The Girl On The Wall is written as though you are having a conversation with Jean. Unique because each chapter is highlighting a different stitched "circle of her life". The reproductions of the stitched circles, the parts of her tapestry, are beautiful. Full color and detailed so that you can actually see the individual stitches precisely crafted. At the back of the book is a full color reproduction pull-out of the actual tapestry. It is amazing!

Jean's book proves that what one perceives as "an ordinary life", really isn't so ordinary after all. Written with a warmth and affection for the people and places in her life, The Girl On The Wall is such an enjoyable read. You'll enjoy it for the wonderful story rich in history, from Jean recounting the "rationing & shortages" during WWII in Great Britain to her discover of "Pink Floyd" in the 70's and the way music changed. Ordinary observations leap off the page in the deft hands of Jean. It will make you nostalgic for simpler times, but it will also captivate you. And if you are a crafter, you will enjoy it for Jean's phenomenal skill (36,992 stitches in total!) and creativity too. Jean Baggott's book The Girl On The Wall is like a perfect cup of tea - smooth & flavorful as you slowly drink it all in. Put this book on your TBR list!

The Girl On The Wall by Jean Baggott hasn't quite made it to U.S. bookstores yet (next Spring probably), but it's available from The Book Depository right now! (and it's free shipping worldwide!). I was so fortunate that Najma from Icon Books generously sent me a copy of The Girl On The Wall to read! Thank you Najma! I loved it!

Would you like to read an excerpt? You can find one at The Girl On the Wall website! While you're there you can also get a peak at the actual tapestry. And for all you crafters out there, Jean also has instructions on her website on how to make your own tapestry.

1 comment:

Nikola said...

It's great to find a profound, meaningful memoir, there's so many out there! Thanks for the review!


Thanks for cheering for me! Looking forward to many more reviews, read-a-thons and book-related extravaganzas!

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