THE LIE THAT SETTLES is a memoir by Peter Farrell, my first cousin, once removed (i.e., my mum is his first cousin). While I’d be happy to plug the book and boost sales (though I can’t say mentioning my Philosophy and Fairytales has sent it soaring into the best-seller charts), I can truthfully say that I liked it a lot. However, me liking a book about my relatives doesn’t tell me anything about how anyone else will react.
The core of Peter’s book is his mother, my Auntie Marion (technically my great-aunt but as Mum was an only child, I grew up treating all my several great-aunts as “Auntie”). Chronologically, the book starts with my great-grandmother “Granny Farrell” whom I never met. It shows Marion growing up, pushing against the confines of their London home, going to work, coming out against World War I (she had socialist and anti-war leanings the rest of the family didn’t share) and going on to work as a nurse in a mental hospital, then in various experimental schools. At one of which she had an affair with a fellow teacher, resulting in Peter (“my husband died in the war” fortunately took care of any scandal).
The book then follows Peter growing up, moving on after Marion died, eventually relocating to New Zealand (the book has gotten some attention over there as a memoir of 1960s Kiwi life, I gather) and learning that his supposedly dead father was actually alive. He eventually made contact with his half-siblings and became friends with them; his father, unfortunately, passed on before Peter could meet him. As he never really talked about this stuff with his mother, many of the details are now lost to history.
I’m sure you can understand why this fascinates me. I loved my Aunties, but I always had a sense of them as moons orbiting around me, the central planet. Sure, I knew they had lives when I wasn’t around, but it always seemed like I was the center of their universe (I suspect I’m not the only grandchild/nephew who felt like that). Now I discover they were real people with affairs, careers (they were retired by the time I knew them), and political opinions.
There’s also the way the Farrell women look so unbelievably alike. I can see some of it in my sister and Mum too.
And there’s the fascination in trying to discern whether there’s a deeper similarity. The way Marion or Auntie Grace interact with their kids, is that anything like Mum and me? Is there some family behavior pattern I can spot in myself? I don’t think so, though I’m not so sure about Mum. This is so subjective though, I wouldn’t swear that I see a pattern either.
So you can see why me liking the book doesn’t tell me anything about what anyone else would think. Still, if I can influence anyone to buy it, I think it’s my familial duty not to pass it up.