Christina Patterson overcomes family misfortunes

The journalist and broadcaster Christina Patterson’s memoir begins promisingly. She has a talent for vivid visual description, not least: ‘We are a pink and navy family. Two pink girls, a navy boy and a navy wife.’ Her early family holidays in Sweden, where her mother is from, are full of lingon-berries, hammocks and mini-golf. She recounts the story of her parents’ courtship as students and says of their relationship: ‘Love at first sight. Love for nearly 50 years. Love till death do us part’ — ominously pointing out how easy they have made love and marriage look. Most arresting, however, in this early part of the book, is her depiction

Finder and keeper: two family memoirs reviewed

What can we ever know about our family’s past? How do we love those closest to us when doing so brings us to the edge of insanity? Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know and Sam Mills’s The Fragments of My Father explore both of these questions. Chung’s memoir takes on a sleuth-like quality as she describes the process of uncovering her birth family. Born weeks premature, she was put up for adoption by her Korean-American parents, who feared she wouldn’t survive. Throughout her childhood, the reasons behind her adoption were presented as solid and comforting: ‘The doctors told them you would struggle all your life. Your birth parents were

When six of her 12 children went mad, Mimi Galvin did her best to make to light of it

Don Galvin and Mimi Blayney married in December 1944. It was a shotgun wedding. They had been high school sweethearts. Just before Don was about to be shipped out to join the fighting in the South Pacific, Mimi called from New York to say she was pregnant. A rushed wedding across the Mexican border in Tijuana followed: a not uncommon wartime story. But Mimi’s pregnancy turned out to be the first of a dozen, each accompanied by severe morning sickness. Between 1945 and 1965, a procession of children arrived, ten boys and then, at last, even after Mimi’s gynaecologist had warned that further pregnancies might prove life-threatening, came two girls.