Friday, January 14, 2011
Book Review: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
I've been hearing a lot about Caroline Knapp's acclaimed memoir ever since Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell came out last year. Then I ran across a used copy last week and I read the entire book the next day.
Ms. Knapp tells a harrowing story of 20 years of constant drunkenness, broken up only by a brief stint of bulimia. What's perhaps most frightening about this story is how ordinary it is. Ms. Knapp grew up in Cambridge, a privileged daughter of an esteemed psychiatrist, she went to a good college, was never abused or injured, and started drinking at 14.
Ms. Knapp tells a good story. She's honest and self-deprecating. She doesn't spill all the beans up front - she teases and she doles out insights and events one at a time. It's a riveting read. She doesn't make excuses for her actions. She takes responsibility, and there's very little AA-speak until the very end of the book, when she does finally stop drinking. It truly is her own personal story, but there are resources and information on alcoholism.
I do wish the book had been written when she was further along in her sobriety. She was only 2 years sober when the book was published. However because of the Gail Caldwell book (which I haven't read yet) I have reason to believe she did stay sober. But I think it would have given the book additional insight. I couldn't put the book down, and found myself holding my breath more than once. It's a beautiful confession of addiction and a nearly ruined life.
I bought this book used at an independent bookstore.