Find Another Place by Ben Graff
|Find Another Place by Ben Graff|
|Reviewer: Kate Jones|
|Summary: A well written, thoughtful family memoir, which anyone with a family can relate to.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 352||Date: March 2018|
When Ben Graff's grandfather Martin handed him a plastic folder of handwritten notes from his journal, he didn't take much notice of it. At the age of 24, Graff didn't realise the gravity of the pages he was holding.
Fast forward, now a father of four with health concerns of his own, Graff finally reads his dead grandfather's words, and decides to put them together with his own and create a family memoir of his own life, and that of those that have gone before him, in what becomes a discovery and exploration of difficult father/children relationships and how to do better at them. The memoir covers almost 100 years in Graff's family, from the birth of his grandfather in 1916, to the death of his own father in 2014.
Martin had always wanted to be a writer, we are told, trying but failing to write spy stories. He realised, sadly too late for himself, that the stories were in the people that crowded his journals; the everyday lives of his family members. Graff, a similar character to his late grandfather, pores over the journals, together with found letters between his also now deceased parents, and other family papers, to try to understand who these people had really been.
There are some nice lines within the book: The family had left so much paper for me, so many other memories and questions as their final gift, that sitting down to write was more joining a conversation than beginning one. I liked this idea; that the past memories of the people in our lives could become a conversation, a joining of the dots of our lives.
We find out that Graff found his emerging literary tastes as a young man and that he had first attempted writing a novel, and it is evident in the style of the text that he has a natural flair for words. The prose is well constructed. A lot of his own part of the 'story' is tied up with his complicated relationship with his own father and his love of chess, together with his evident wish to be a good father to his own children.
The book doesn't run specifically chronologically or linear, Graff choosing to start with he and his wife trying for their first baby, likely seeing this as a good place to start a memoir reflecting on fatherhood and family relationships. He goes on to introduce Martin's journals, bridging the gap between what he knew of the family himself, and the knowledge gleaned within its pages. He also utilises pieces of poetry of his mother's and old letters. He even, at one point, has contributions from his children. I did find the jumping around of different sources of information a little disorientating at times, and felt that perhaps just hearing Graff's and his grandfather's voice running concurrently may have been a little easier to follow, but I can see he wanted to include all elements of his family.
The book would be of interest to readers who enjoy reading family histories or who wish to write their own, though it doesn't contain any huge references to wider history, portraying as it does the everyday nuances of an 'ordinary' family. It was clearly a labour of love for Graff and will be an enduring piece of work for his future family generations.
If you liked this, you might like Toast: the Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater
You can read more book reviews or buy Find Another Place by Ben Graff at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Find Another Place by Ben Graff at Amazon.com.
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