Today I’ve been reading an autobiography that reads like a novel and a novel that is a fictionalised biography.
The autobiography is William Woodruff’s The Road to Nab End. I’m loving this book and am amazed at the detail he could remember about his childhood. I was very interested in his family background. In 1906 his parents had emigrated from Blackburn to Fall River in Massachusetts, where his father worked in a cotton mill. Although he was doing well they returned to England in 1914. His father then joined up and went off to war, leaving his wife with three children to care for; when her savings ran out she was forced to work in the mills.
William was born in 1916. After the end of the war life was very different. His father came home disillusioned, a sick man, having been gassed at Ypres late in 1917, back to his job in the cotton mills. This book covers the period up to 1933, the poverty of Blackburn’s cotton workers, the local characters and their way of life. This morning I was reading about the General Strike of 1926 and was wondering how it affected my parents who were 12 at the time. William’s experience in Blackburn could have been similar to my father’s who lived about 30 miles south in Cheshire. Jumping forward in time William eventually moved to Florida, where he was a Graduate Research Professor until his retirement in 1996 – at the age of 80! He died last September in Florida. He continued his life story in Beyond Nab End.
I do like variety in my reading and this morning I also briefly picked up Blonde by Joyce Carole Oates. I only read The Prologue and the first chapter, The Kiss, of this fictionalised life of Marilyn Monroe. Oates’s portrait imagines Marilyn’s inner life and begins with a portrayal of Death, hurtling unexpectedly to 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, Brentwood, California on 3 August 1962. I was reminded of the character of Death in The Good Thief. This book is going to take me a while to read as it’s another mammoth novel of 738 pages. I might alternate my reading with Barbara Leaming’s biography, Marilyn Monroe to see how they compare.