Many of us experience depression as a mood of joylessness, disconnection and boredom, which eventually passes. But what Daphne Merkin describes here is more akin to a permanent state of despair. From early childhood she experienced crying jags, feelings of abandonment and emotional impoverishment. She was later institutionalized. Many questions emerge. Why did her parents have so many children, when they clearly had little time for them? Why were the children put into the care of such a sadistic nanny? And where does depression take root in the psyche? This memoir is insightful, intelligent and ruthlessly honest.
Much of this powerful memoir appeared in Diski's column in the London Review of Books. Diski died in April and she writes here about mortality, oncology treatments and her various hospitalizations for mental illness and drug addiction with a distinctive and intimate voice. But the really fascinating pages explore her years as a troubled teen living in the home of Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing. Why Lessing took her in is far from clear, since she seems to have had some glaring blind spots, and had herself abandoned two of her own children when, as a promising writer, she moved to London. An insightful and memorable book.