In this quest to understand the enigma of his mother 's life and death, George Szirtes travels back from personal memory to deeper history, as he reconstructs his family's tragedy-darkened past . . . An original, probingly thoughtful memoir whose restraint only increases its poignancy and impact
In this extraordinary, hybrid book - part memoir, part history, part poetic journey - Szirtes re-makes the life of his mother, tracing her childhood in Europe's darkest period to her life in Britain after the Hungarian uprising. He brilliantly captures how sometimes it's those closest to us who remain the most mysterious.
A truly remarkable book about identity, image and memory. It is fiercely compelling.
Magda Szirtes is intense, untameable, tantalising and compelling. George Szirtes is tender and astute in trying to understand her, percipient in analysing the enduring fragments of her life -- letters, tape-recordings, photographs, memories -- yet ever-aware of how little it is possible to know. The result is engrossing and profoundly moving.
Unforgettably sad . . . Szirtes has made [his mother's] monument. It is a courageous and remarkable achievement. I've read no memoir that moved me more.
A book full of warmth, grief, curiosity, wisdom, staggering anecdotes and a coming to terms with the vicissitudes of 20th-century history . . . [a] highly original telling of the author's mother's life and the heartrending events through which she lived.
Szirtes uses his poet's eye to build images and details that bring his mother superbly to life . . . [this] is a beautifully written and utterly compelling narrative.
[An] exquisitely told memoir . . . By telling the story of his mother's life backwards Szirtes has performed a sort of conjuring trick . . . Not simply a memoir but a hybrid of history and biography interspersed with photographs, poems and several standout moments
As isolated snapshots build into a family portrait, and a historical fresco, we grasp the wider picture . . . beautiful, devastating
Like a film in reverse, this narrative structure not only reclaims a time of innocence and hope but also functions as a form of healing, an undoing of her pain.
The writing is always scrupulous . . . Knowledge is partly invention, Szirtes says, memory is mostly invention, and 'the trick is to invent the truth.' It may be a trick but it's one he pulls off brilliantly in this compelling memoir.
He works, frame by frame, through a sequence of ever-older photographs, employing her own chosen medium to interrogate the mystery of her existence, and the fallibility of memory
Exceptional . . . There is much more to this scrupulously written memoir than I have been able to convey. There are photographs throughout the text, but those in the final pages are heartbreaking.
Exceptional . . . An act of love.