Tuesday, 5 July 2011

In the Mirror, by Ann Best. I'm left with goosebumps and struck with utter awe.



This has to be one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. Do not be fooled by the simple language. It  is stark and honest and just ... amazing.

I like to think of this memoir as a ballad. If you are familiar with this form of poetry, you would know that the content is often tragic, they begin in the middle of conflict, they contain brief lyrical moments, and that they are condensed. They are so condensed that, if well-written, the language often seems to not portray any emotion at all, but when they are read, the imagery is so strong and raw, and violent in its exposure, that one is often left with goosebumps and struck with utter awe. This is how I felt reading this memoir.

I literally had to force myself to put this memoir down at night. There is so much tension and ache and sometimes desperation woven between the minimalism of Ann's prose. And you don't even have to look that deeply. It just seems to pop out at you when you least expect it and leave you feeling naked.

As a writer of literary fiction, who tends to embellish prose with lyrical content to squeeze the utmost emotion out of my scenes, I am so impressed with this book. And I can confidently say that Ann has taught me the power of simplicity. Raymond Carver introduced me to it. Ann Best justified its worth.

What a wonderful experience to read this book. Ann, I take my hat off to you.

What books have you read recently that have left a strong impression on you?


31 comments:

  1. I keep hearing great things about this book.

    I'll be writing about my latest read tomorrow.

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  2. I haven't read much of late but know the better weather is upon us and I live close to the beach I can take a book with me.......bliss.

    Yvonne.

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  3. Hi Jessica .. you've certainly expressed your appreciation of Ann's book .. now I want to read it even more ..

    What a superb review - great for Ann .. she deserves so much success ..

    Fantastic read - and I will be buying the book this week - Jessica .. thanks so much - your writing here stands out too .. congratulations to both of you are in order .. Hilary

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  4. I'm reading...lit...by Mary Karr. I can't say I love her story, but I LOVE her writing. She also wrote The Liars Club.

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  5. Sounds wonderful, Jess. :) I wish I could say that I've been reading lately, but work has been keeping me busy. Lame, I know.

    I'll add this to my TBR pile! <3

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  6. have you read The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr? That is one of my FAV memoirs! Her language is so beautiful.

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  7. I love memoirs. I need to add this book to my TBR list... Great review. xo

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  8. I recently discovered Ann's blog and read with fascination about her life and perseverance. I imagine the memoir is much more of the same (and good!). Thanks for reminding me of it.
    erica

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  9. Your beautiful description of Anne's writing is another reason why I should get this book. I have read good reviews on this book and I really must get my copy. Thank you, Jess.

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  10. I know, right!? I couldn't put the book down. I was blown away. I'm glad she's getting the attention she deserves.

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  11. I felt the same way about Ann's book. Mesmerizing.
    Karen

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  12. Just finished "The Unbearable Sadness of Lemon Cake" It was so striking that I had a dream about it. Thanks so much for sharing this book.

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  13. You've given me the kick up the backside I need to buy this book. Thank you!

    Ellie Garratt

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  14. Glad so many are enjoying Ann's book!

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  15. Wow! The book sounds amazing! I actually know Ann from my blogging. She's a truly inspirational lady with a very strong voice.

    :-)

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  16. I've not read Ann's book yet so I appreciate your thoughts on it. I like your comparison - a memoir to a ballad. I need to remember that.

    Have a great week!

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  17. Dear Jessica: I'm honored to be compared to Raymond Carver. His minimalist style (and also Hemingway's style) are what I have wanted to emulate. Simplicity does it; draws out the emotions, as you did in your book of poems, Twisted Velvet Chains. As a thank you for this wonderful review, I'm going to publicly thank you this evening in a post and quote some passages from your intense and intensely moving poems. It's true: Too many words would have deflected their emotional impact. And thanks to all of you (above) for your support!
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

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  18. Thanks for the review, Jessica! I love ballads [g] Very much looking forward to reading this book.

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  19. Thanks for the review. I have Ann's book on my TBR list. Not a lot of books leave a strong impression on me. Some do. I like stories based on real people and real events. These leave the strongest impression on me.

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  20. Wow, your review really has me wanting to read this book! Especially since you couldn't put it down. I haven't read a book like that in a while. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

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  21. Jessica, it's good to meet you. Thanks for this review. Although I haven't read Ann's book yet I can tell it's a powerful read.

    Ann, I'm looking forward to reading the book. It's on my list, but I haven't reached it yet.

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  22. oh, that's a great feeling- to find a book you can't put down where the writing impresses the crap out of you. I felt that way when I read Dianne's 'We Hear The Dead'- she quickly became my new hero. Her writing still impresses me to no end.

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  23. I'm not normally a memoire reader, but what you've said about the language makes me think we could all learn from it.

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  24. Great review, we just started it too and it really is great!

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  25. This is a fine review! Well deserved, I must add!

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  26. Hi! I popped over from Ann's blog. What a wonderful review for her book...Now I REALLY can't wait to read it!

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  27. Oooh, good question. Recently I've been reading LIH books and I think by reading them I've figured out how to fix one of my revision problems. But a great book that sticks with me...I haven't read one in a while. I don't think I could read this memoir. It sounds sooo sad!
    But I've noticed too that sometimes less written emotion makes me feel more. It sounds like she's a wonderful writer!

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  28. Very nice and compelling review.

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  29. I couldn't agree with your review more, Jessica. Ann Best's debut book is for readers and writers, a true masterpiece. I can only hope this will be the first of many others she will have published.

    And thank you very much for being a new follower of Bird's-eye View!

    Michelle
    http://michellefayard.blogspot.com

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  30. I prefer simplicity in style--an unfettered approach to story-telling without pretense gets a message across so much better than the writer who is striving for something bigger than necessary. Ann seems like a wonderful lady and I wish her much success.
    Today I've posted a review of a memoir that is on the opposite end of the literary spectrum than Ann's. I won't say it's bad, but it did leave a negative impression upon me.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  31. The last book that left a strong impression on me?

    "Blogging For Fun & Profit, Hope & Change, Gin & Vermouth, And A Little T.& A."

    It's a large, heavy book, and my girlfriend hit me in the head with it. Left an impression.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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