This is the story of three people: Julia Blackburn; her father, Thomas; and her mother, Rosalie. Thomas was a poet and an alcoholic who for many years was addicted to barbiturates, which would often make him violent. Rosalie, a painter, was sociable and flirtatious; she treated Julia as her sister, her confidante, and eventually as her deadly sexual rival. After Julia’s parents divorced, her mother took in lodgers, always men, on the understanding that each would become her lover. When one of the lodgers started an affair with Julia, Rosalie was devastated; when he later committed suicide, the relationship between mother and daughter was shattered irrevocable.
Or so it seems until the spring of 1999, when Rosalie, diagnosed with leukemia, came to live with Julia for the last month of her life. At last the spell was broken, and they were able to talk with an ease they had never known before. When she was very near the end, Rosalie said to Julia, “Now you will be able to write about me, won’t you?”
The Three of Us is a memoir like no other you have read. The writing is magical, and the story is extraordinary, not only for its honest but also for its humor and its lack of blame. Ultimately, this is a tale of redemption, a love story. It will surely become one of the classics of that genre.
About the Author
Julia Blackburn is the author of seven books of nonfiction, including Old Man Goya, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and With Billie, which won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award; and of the novels The Book of Color and The Leper’s Companions, both of which were short-listed for the Orange Prize. She lives in England.
Praise for The Three of Us: A Family Story…
"Despite the darkness of the rooms she re-enters, Blackburn's book isn't gloomy in the least . . . However unforgiving her detail, tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner is the message of this extraordinary book."
--Blake Morrison, The Guardian
"This memoir has warmth and love it's hard to imagine could have been possible. Readers be warned--this is no misery-lit memoir. There's something else going on entirely. [The Three of Us] is also a work of art in itself: a careful weaving in and out of personal memories and present pain to create something remarkable.'
"Gripping . . . What sets Blackburn's memoir apart is her extraordinary ability to sit on the edges of her own drama, to notice the texture, cadence and scent of these lives and to capture th experience with a painterly precision . . . An unnerving book about manipulation and loss, and about the complicated burdens families inflict on one another down through the generations. As a literary memoir of a lost childhood, it is remarkable as much for its candour as its craftsmanship."
--The Sunday Times
"Blackburn details her first sixteen years . . . in such as ingenuous, matter-of-fact manner that she somehow manages to make terrible events seem almost funny . . . The resulting memoir is mesmerizing and brilliant."
"This is an astonishing memoir, brave and exquisitely written. The story is riveting, and its ending takes us as well as Blackburn by surprise as her mother's dying becomes the occasion for something that goes beyond reconciliation--a time of grace on both parts. Everything we think we know about families and sex and mother-daughter relations is called into question as Blackburn's unsparing eye is joined by her remarkably open heart."
--Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice and Kyra: A Novel.