My mother once said to me, ‘I wish you could feel the way I do for eighteen seconds. Just eighteen seconds, so you’d know how awful it is.’
I thought about it. Realised we could all learn from being in another person’s head for eighteen seconds. Eighteen seconds inside Grandma Roberts’ head as she sat alone with her evening cup of tea, us girls upstairs in bed. Eighteen seconds inside one-year-old Colin’s head when he woke up in a foster home without his family. Eighteen seconds inside the head of a girl waiting for her bedroom door to open.
Writer, Louise Beech, looks back on the events that led to the day her mother wrote down her last words, then jumped off the Humber Bridge. She missed witnessing the horror herself by minutes.
Louise recounts the pain and trauma of her childhood alongside her love for her siblings with a delicious dark humour and a profound voice of hope for the future.
Hi and welcome to my review of Eighteen Seconds!
In recent years, I’ve become fond of non-fiction. What started with a challenge to finally pick up the few non-fiction books I had on my TBR ended with me actively seeking out new books. Despite my new-found love for non-fiction, I seldomly choose biographies and memoirs. (I think I might still be traumatised from having to wade through Gabriel García Marquez’s for my Spanish lit class at uni 😬).
Eighteen Seconds came out as an audiobook under the name Daffodils in 2022 and I’ve been on the fence about it ever since. I have read and loved every book Louise Beech has ever written, so of course I wanted to read her memoir as well. However, memoirs are a tricky thing. What if the memoir shows you a side of the person you admire that you didn’t know, what if it puts that person in a completely different light, what if it spoils their art for you forever?
Moreover, considering the event that kicked off the introspection that led to this memoir – her mum’s suicide attempt – and the fact that all of Louise’s books have made me well up, also knowing that there are autobiographical bits in there, I was afraid it would make for some very heavy reading.
Hence the fence I sat on for much too long. When I came across Eighteen Seconds on NetGalley, I made the split second decision to request it, to trust in the universe and the publisher to make the decision for me, and I saw my request accepted with mixed feelings…
I won’t lie, it’s not the lightest of reads. Louise Beech and her siblings have been through A LOT. And some of that is horrifying and/or harrowing and/or absolutely heartbreaking. It made me sad to think about some of the things Louise has had to hide behind that dazzling smile. However, much of it is also heartwarming. The bond with her siblings is incredibly strong and their humour really does lighten up the whole memoir, as does the love for her children.
I can’t tell you how much I feel for the little girl who fought so hard and well into adulthood too. For a bond she now knows was never there with a mother who showed more than a few narcissistic tendencies throughout her entire life. For her own mental health, and that of her younger siblings. I can’t tell you how much I feel for the kid who only ever had one adult in her life who made her feel that everything would be alright, and it wasn’t her parents.
Much like Louise’s fiction, her memoir is not a cheap sobfest. It made me sad and it made me smile and yes, it punched me in the gut, but what I was left with after reading it, is a better understanding of both the woman and the author. I loved the references to her fiction, learning what real-life event or person sparked a fictional one. And instead of spoiling her art for me forever, I now appreciate it even more. I am truly grateful to the universe and Mardle Books for helping me off that fence, I would have missed out. I would happily recommend Eighteen Seconds to readers who enjoy memoirs and / or who love Louise’s books.
Eighteen Seconds is out on 27 April.
Massive thanks to Mardle Books and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.