Lucidly Written and Movingly Honest

THE TRUTH GAME by Vanessa Nicolson (Quartet Books, April 2017)

A moving, often unexpectedly funny, memoir with an interesting structure: each chapter is a pen portrait of someone who has played a pivotal role in the author's life. However each chapter is more than just a pen portrait - it illuminates an aspect of her life or personality - and she knows how to widen the perspective with the right anecdotal digression or an incisive social observation. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this book is Nicolson's extraordinary ability to scrutinise herself without evasion or self-pity and her ability to write with such lucidity and nuance about exactly the things that are most difficult to write about. Not just painful and difficult things, although there are those, of course - but also about subtle differences in feeling and mood. Much will be made of her grand connections - no doubt it helps with marketing - but in fact the book is only incidentally about those connections - indeed the majority of the subjects of the vignettes are far removed from Bloomsbury. An excellent read which I found difficult to put down - at the end of each chapter the temptation to take a peek at the first few paragraphs of the next one is hard to resist and then you find yourself reading to the end of that too, and so on.

Review by Alkarim Jivani, reprinted here by kind permission.

Vanessa Nicolson is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. Her last memoir, Have You Been Good? was published by Granta in 2015. She grew up in London and Florence and has worked as an art historian and journalist. She lives in Sissinghurst, Kent.