Friday, 24 April 2009


The Mighty Queens of Freeville is Amy Dickinson’s story of her life and the effect upon it both of her own and of her parents’ divorce. It’s easy to read and in places more like a novel than an autobiography. Importantly it is not a tale about divorce itself, so there are no gory details of fallings out (unless you can count reference to an argument about the Prime Minister of Pakistan) nor does it seek to wash dirty linen in public. As Amy says they divorced “nicely.”

What it does do is normalise the emotions that accompany marriage break up, describing how she loved her husband dearly and still did when she woke up the next day, until she remembered that he was leaving her. She recounts how she used to congratulate herself for not calling him and would lie in bed promising not to telephone the following morning either. She recalls the pain at handing her young daughter over for contact, the child’s arms locked around her in an embrace that she could not undo. She even remembers the emotions she encountered as child when her own father left and she visited him and his new partner. She describes dashing from work to collect her daughter from school and building her whole life around their relationship together.

The book is spiced with moments of humour including her first attempts at dating again. She learned to forget to worry about a career and instead concentrate on the family that was important to her, returning eventually to live in the hometown she had grown up in.

She rails at the family values enunciated by politicians and concedes that hers is the imperfect broken unit they attack whilst failing to recognise that, though not perfect, it functions adequately.

There cannot be many Agony Aunts prepared to be so honest in print and in acknowledging that divorce runs through her family “like an aggressive chromosome” she also thanks her family, particularly the women in it, for the support they gave her in helping her come to terms with and handle the experience.

Any complaints? Only that I thought it should have been longer.

My thanks to the publishers Hyperion for forwarding a copy of the book to read and review.

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