My book review of 'Letters from Brenda' by Emma Kennedy

by Emma Kennedy
Letters from Brenda
by Emma Kennedy

This is a quite extraordinary memoir.

It opens with a disturbing and distressing account of Brenda's death that was so hard to read, I almost gave up then and there.

However, the book moves on to be astonishingly funny, honest and revealing.

Emma Kennedy, as a broadcaster and writer, has found rich material for her memoir 'The Tent, the Bucket and Me' and tv comedy drama 'The Kennedys' by recalling her childhood. But when her mother died, Emma struggled with her memories, not knowing how to grieve, feeling that she wasn't really sure of who her mother was.

When Emma was given dozens of lost letters from her mother, she was able to unpick their relationship, and begin her grieving and healing process.

Though the letters are hugely entertaining in their own right, Emma has added footnotes which reveal Brenda's complex nature and view on the world. And interleaved with these collections of letters are chapters detailing Emma's recollections and observations of the passing years. It's a warm and funny account but it's also shatteringly honest. Brenda had a mental illness which the family denied to themselves and hid from others. Through this book Emma Kennedy confronts what that illness might have been, what it meant to the family and what they might have done differently. It is an extraordinary book.

Review date: March 2022
Publication date: 12th May 2022