The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (by Madeleine L'Engle)

I've slowly been reading an increasing number of non-fiction books by Madeleine L'Engle, even though she is probably best known for her fictional 'Wrinkle in Time' series for children.

After reading, and enjoying the first of the Crosswicks Journals, 'A Circle of Quiet' earlier in the year, I was delighted to be able to borrow the second of the series from a friend. I started reading it at the end of September, and have dipped into it at intervals for the past six or so weeks.

'The Summer of the Great-Grandmother' is the story of the summer season when Madeleine L'Engle's mother was in the last stages of Alzheimer's disease, frail and forgetful, yet still an important member of the family. The book describes the situation she is living in, the difficulties of communication, the pain of seeing a loved one suffering.

Interspersed with this there are many reflections about the past, writien in journal style. There are anecdotes from the author's childhood, stories she had heard about (and from) her mother, and about her own grandparents and other relatives.

I found the number of different people mentioned to be a bit overwhelming and easily lost track of who was whom - but nonetheless, enjoyed the writing. It's thoughtful, sometimes moving, and gives an intriguing picture of the somewhat simpler life of the previous decades.

Definitely recommended. First published in 1974, but still in print on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 1st November 2010

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