My book review of 'Maggie and Me' by Damian Barr
Maggie and Me
Damian Barr is a popular and successful journalist, novelist and presenter. He runs a literary salon on the south coast, and a book programme on Scottish tv, and he's very well connected among the literati!
In this memoir of his childhood and youth in Scotland, he reveals how the spectre of Margaret Thatcher hung heavily over the significant moments of his life growing up. The steelworks under threat of closure, the free school milk to be withdrawn, the mantra of working hard to get your way in the world.
For Damian, there were fractured and complicated family relationships, financial hardship and a fear of jobs being lost, bullying and not fitting in at school, and ultimately a realisation of his homosexuality.
The story is full of shocking and poignant moments as the young boy battles abuse and seeks friendship, affection and security, but it is also funny, nostalgic and touching. And it concludes with the success story that is his present life, acknowledging that Thatcher "made it possible - but not probable - for me to be the man I am now."
And I was interested, particularly, in his comment on writing the book, recorded in the Acknowledgements: "Writing this book has been an extension of living - and reliving - my life. For years, whenever I tried to write something longer than a newspaper feature, I kept returning to my own story - fragments, details, feelings. The sort of stuff you get out of your system and put in a drawer and forget. ...This self-indulgence was frustrating - surely I had better stories to tell than my own..."