I met her some years ago in a leafy suburb of Dublin. The rule of attraction as always happens among human beings was her appearance, her nordic appearance. Her slim figure wrapped up with a white anorak and her ‘signature’ long blond hair attracted my attention in the first place. When I talked to her, her voice had the same effect on me as her appearance, soft posh intellectual English accent. Usually this kind of people who concentrate all the above ingredients of popularity are quite indifferent about others , but not Sarah. Sarah was quite tuned to other people’s need for communication. So it was not too long that a real friendship was developed between us. One of those friendship which one could share secrets and lies without being embarrassed, reveal their weakness but as well as their strengths, fears and have a good laugh.
Despite my moves around the globe we kept in touch, even during her ordeal, fighting a common disease of our times, breast cancer. And during this ordeal she made an extraordinary thing: she wrote a book.
This summer she gave it to me with her signature. I didn’t expect anything less than her. A book about her disease, explaining it by scientific precision as a bright first class educated person can explain. Sarah read English literature in Oxford with first class honour as well as she attended the prestigious UEA creative writing courses. She wrote about her beloved mother who had the same disease and the same gene mutation BRCA1, about her father and the impact her disease had on her own small family.
Reading the book I realized that I had already known the most of the facts and I learned more about Breast Cancer, the BRCA1 gene mutation which Sarah described with medical accuracy, I learned more about her family, her politician father her late mother, another Oxford graduate and much loved by her. I recognized somewhere myself with my daft questions and once more I confirmed that Sarah comes from a certain stock -a family of driven people, “..we were the whole world’ with her father’s words. All of them have put in, with their own way, a small stone in this very exclusive English society. Sarah is a journalist in Sunday Times.
Sarah’s book isn’t a simple memoir of her life , it’s well crafted literature which, I’m sure, was the reason that Clare Alexander, the guru of the literary agent in London, snatched her book to add it in her long list of the famous authors she promotes…..
The following is an extract from her book, just to illuminate her literary craft:
‘I always thought I would write novels about relationships. Subtle psychological studies of the contemporary family, its disintegrations and reformations; the long shadow play of gender;generations across time. Exquisite things in the realist symbolist tradition, where the fictional creatures took off from the page and held you in a separate rapture, about which there was nothing of shame or disclosure.
But reality supervened. It crashed on to the page. The third-person narratives got stuck. I couldn’t get my creatures up in the morning, let alone dressed and out of the house. The sat like a roomful of outgrown toys, slumped in the corner, when the children have long gone on to other things. They reproached me, with their twisted limbs, their ratty fur, glass eyes hung out on wire.
Instead, something else got up and running. It wasn’t nice. I didn’t like it. But I have to admit it had a certain vitality. The hideous familiarity of certain close relatives, or one of Dostoevsky’s drunks. Affable and manipulative, emptying out his pockets. What’s mine is yours, my dear. Including my degradation, of course. Any comparison of offerings is vulgar; you know it yourself. It chuckled at me softly as I fled, and returned at night, when I was Jumpy.
I took a mallet to its hands, as they crept under the shutters. I went for its knees; it just kept on coming. I am the way and the life, it said. Or your life, at any rate. I’ve got your card. It’s marked. ‘
P.S. “Sarah”, reading your book one quotation stuck in my mind, perhaps because I knew that you adore the Russian classical authors : ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.