Review by John Purcell, Head of Marketing and Chief Buyer at Booktopia.
Knowing Caroline, I was prepared for something good. I did not expect this, however. Caroline's memoir has surpassed my expectations and has left me a little in awe of her. Only is utterly brilliant. Sophisticated, honest, enlightening, entertaining and beautifully written. This is the kind of memoir I have been waiting for. It is reminiscent of the early twentieth century writing I so enjoy.
Caroline's family history is interesting - populated with extraordinary characters tossed hither and thither by war, love, changing political circumstances and the vagaries of business. But it is the relationship between Caroline and her parents which dominates this book. Her depiction of them is both honest and, I think, respectful. She gives us a portrait which rings true - sharing the good and the bad - allowing them to come forth as the complicated individuals I believe they must be.
Memoirs shouldn't exist to satisfy our urge to pry into the lives of others, they should really exist to help us understand our own lives better, to instruct or enlighten. Only does this. Caroline's honesty about her own foibles, as well as those of her parents, binds us to her. When she faces the turmoil of her father's illness we go through it with her. These chapters are as raw as anything from Karl Ove Knausgaard. And because she is able to share her feelings so openly, we learn from her experience.
I picked the book up because I know Caroline Baum personally. I put it down realising I actually know nothing about her. Well… I do now.
In short, on very many levels, Only is a thoroughly satisfying read.
Three barely felt like a family. It felt like it did not count. Like we were unfinished. Incomplete. There was always a gap at the table, room to set places for others. Visitors were few and far between. Mostly, there was only me.
...Only is a painfully honest and entertaining story of an unconventional childhood. It reveals what it feels like to be an only child and the focal point of two people damaged by trauma and tragedy, and the courage it takes to break free from the past and the pull of its secrets...
Caroline Baum's poignant and gripping memoir is for anyone who has felt the pressure of being at the fulcrum of a seesaw, the focus of all eyes and expectations - torn between love and fear, obedience and rebellion, duty and the longing to escape. In exploring what being a Good Daughter means and why it can be so difficult, Only uncovers truths that offer readers deep emotional insight...
About the Author
Caroline Baum is a respected journalist and presenter. She has worked for the BBC, ABC, Time Life Books, Vogue magazine (UK and Australia), was the founding editor of Good Reading magazine and the Editorial Director of Booktopia. She has been a judge of the Stella Prize, the Ned Kelly and Kibble Awards.
She is in demand as a presenter at Writers Festivals across Australia and has interviewed many of the world's top international authors. Her writing has been published in major national publications and online media. She is currently researching a biography for a DCA in Creative Writing at University of Wollongong and is the recipient of the Hazel Rowley Fellowship 2015. She lives on the South Coast of NSW.
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Comments about Only - Order Your Signed Copy!*:
I loved this book from beginning to end - very honest, human and very engaging!
‘A rich and rollicking tale that deepens into the tenderest of daughterly tributes.’ HELEN GARNER, author of This House of Grief
‘A conflicted love letter to her European origins and the uncrushable spirit of her glamorous, at times difficult parents, this lyrical page turner made me laugh and made me weep.’ MAGDA SZUBANSKI, author of Reckoning
‘An unflinchingly honest exploration of what it takes to be a good daughter, with a heart-melting scoop of ice cream.’ ELIZABETH GILBERT, author of Eat, Pray, Love
‘A vivid and moving account of life as an only child: there’s glamour in this world but terrors aplenty.’ RICHARD GLOVER, author of Flesh Wounds
‘Only is a wild and deeply felt tale. With her unflinching gaze, Caroline Baum explores the inheritance of being an "only", contrasting an exotic cast of the glamorous and the famous with her unconventional, often solitary childhood.’ AILSA PIPER, author of Sinning Across Spain
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 22nd February 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3