Shocking revelations including murder and incest have been published in a writer’s memoir of her mother.
Emma Brockes’ mother Paula had kept much of her life growing up in South Africa secret, but after she died in 2003 the Guardian writer decided to research her past.
She discovered her grandfather, Jimmy, was a convicted murderer and child molester and that her mum once thought of shooting him but did not go through with it. A court case against him for abuse of her sister collapsed, forcing Paula to flee to England.
The first quarter of the book, ‘She Left Me The Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me’, describes the author’s Wendover upbringing, one Ms Brockes’ said was ‘as far as you could get from my mother’s own childhood’.
The former Aylesbury High School student said: “The remarkable thing about the story is how someone who had experienced the life she had, could adapt to the role of a Buckinghamshire mum with such apparent ease and joyfulness.
“When she talked about her early years, it was mainly in the form of jolly anecdotes about the flora and fauna. She made it sound quite fun, like Cider With Rosie but with deadlier wildlife.
“It wasn’t until the last year of her life that she started to tell a different story.
“My mum was hopeless at keeping secrets, so the first thing was frank amazement that she’d managed to keep all this to herself all my life.”
As part of research for the book, the 37 year old, who lives in New York, travelled to South Africa to meet Paula’s siblings.
She said: “Her brothers and sisters spoke of the love between siblings as something that ultimately saved them. Tony, my mother’s brother, put it best: ‘You can endure so much - violence, poverty – if there is love. Paula loved us’.
“There’s a lot of dramatic stuff in there, but I hope that it’s funny, too, and full of joy.”
The book, published by Faber, is available in most bookstores from April 4 for £16.99.