Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Found, by a book

Isn't it funny how books find you. When a book you would normally never pick up or even take a second glance at finds its way to the top of your reading pile and afterwards you are left thinking, thank god!

I've just experienced this with Who is Sylvia? The diary of a biography of Sylvia Ashton-Warner by Lynley Hood.

A diary of a biography you ask? Yes. After four years of intense work Lynley had published Sylvia! A biography of Sylvia Ashton-Warner, in 1988. As part of the process of writing this biography, Lynley kept a diary, which was first published in 1990. With the recent 100 years anniversary of the birth of Sylvia, both books have recently been re-issued.

When I first picked up the book I thought, do I really need to be reading this, by the time I got to the first paragraph of the Authors note, my curiosity was piqued...

"For four years I was obsessed, or possibly possessed,by Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Her powerful presence was too great to be contained within the long hours I spent researching and writing her biography. I thought about her all day and dreamt about her at night. She invaded my life."

By the time I got to the first paragraph of the prologue, I was hooked...

"When this story began early in 1983 I was a forty-year-olf full-time wife and mother. My youngest child had been at school for over a year and I was thinking of rejoining the workforce."

My god, Lynley Hood, a woman I hugely admire and have to admit to finding a little intimidating, was at exactly the same stage in her life as I am now. I had to read on, I had no choice. Fate had thrown this book into my lap.

I was entranced, and roared through the book. It proved valuable in so many ways.

Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Someone whose name I had often heard, but knew little about. I learned a lot about this perplexing and larger than life woman.

The all absorbing process of writing a biography. If any one out there is even contemplating writing a biography of someone, you must read this book. Consider it a standard text, but a hell of an entertaining and personal one.

The journey of a writer. Lynley's personal insights into the changes and mental shifts she experienced during the course of this consuming project are wonderful. She is very honest in her feelings towards family as held separate from her writing. It made me feel a hell of a lot better about some of the thoughts that go through my head.

So here I am today, with an appointment later that may lead to one such consuming project, which I may or may not share with you all - such is the secretive nature of the writer, but I feel so much better armed having read this book. The timing could not have been more perfect.

So thank you Lynley, for sharing your journey and thank you to the universe, for the gift of this book.


Mary McCallum said...

and thank you for sharing this with us, Vanda, your enthusiasm is infectious - good luck with your 'project'

Pamela Gordon said...

Totally agree about this book Vanda. It is one of my holy scriptures. I'm so glad it has been reissued, so I can recommend it and not have to lend my copy out any more!
Lynley is stroppy and frank and she doesn't pull punches, and I admire that, and her achievements too.
I'm reminded of the quote "Well-behaved women rarely make history."