Shy. It's a shy word, a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long, and it begins with an exhortation to silence. Shhh. Reserved is different. It's for tall men with jutting jaws. Prime ministers can appear reserved: never shy. Restrained carries itself with dignity.
Even introvert has a whiff of authority about it: these people have been tested; Myers and Briggs have awarded them an impressive three-syllable psychological label. But with shy there's no authority, no control. It's a blushing, hunching word; a nervous, knock-kneed, wallflower word. A word for children, not grown-ups, because surely grown-ups grow out of shyness. Don't they? Sian Prior has maintained a career in the public eye, as a broadcaster and performer, for more than twenty years.
For far longer than that she has suffered from excruciating shyness. Eventually, after bolting from a party in a state of near-panic, she decides to investigate her condition. What is it, shyness? Where did hers come from? Why does it create such distressing turmoil beneath her assured professional front? As Sian begins to research the science of social anxiety, other factors present themselves as facets of the problem. Family, intimate friendships, self-perception and fear and longing and the consequences of love...While, in counterpoint, there is the security, the sense of belonging, she finds in the life she shares with Tom, her famous partner. Until he tells her he is leaving.
Shy: A Memoir - frank, provocative, remarkable in its clarity and beautifully written - is a book about unease: about questioning who you are and evading the answer. It is about grief, and abandonment and loss. It is about how the simple word shy belies the complex reality of what that really means.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
Memoir, and the misery memoir in particular, are continuing to enjoy robust health, but this book does not fit that category any more than it fits the kiss-and-tell category, despite the fact that there is a broken relationship with a famous partner at its centre.
It is a category-defying work of intellectual agility, jumping from mode to mode with playful interruptions and bold asides: lists, interviews, elegiac remembrances, painful confessionals, detached professional interviews. Woven together these elements create an intriguing patchwork: each square contributing to an overall understanding of what it means to be shy, and how Prior has navigated her own social anxiety in various public and private roles. She is in turns poised, witty, sharp, anguished, angry, but always unflinchingly honest.
Her research uncovers fascinating physiological and psychological information about the shyness spectrum and its many manifestations, leading her to investigate a world of experts (the origins of blushing, how to do small talk and what is happening in your gut when life makes you want to run away and hide). Given that forty per cent of the population identifies with this condition, and that those who do consider it a handicap this is a book that will find many appreciative readers. But don’t you dare call it self-help.
About the Author
Sian Prior is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in the arts and popular culture, a media consultant, and a teacher at universities and writers centres. She has a second career as a musician and recording artist. Sian lives in Melbourne. Shy: A Memoir is her first book.
'A fascinating meditation on how temperament can shape a person's life.' * Books+Publishing *
'A fascinating and engaging read.' * Readings Monthly *
'Charming and beautifully evoked...' * Weekend Australian *
`The book interweaves psychological theory with personal experience in an intelligent and sophisticated manner...Shy is also a finely observed piece of writing. Prior captures details with prose equal to a skilled novelist...a deeply satisfying inquiry into the nature of self.' * Saturday Paper *
'A memoir that's heartfelt, sometimes entertaining, occasionally moving, and broadly informative.' * Otago Daily Times *
'Shy: A Memoir is warm and objective, funny and sad, and philosophical and informative...based on the beauty of this book, Prior could clearly write brilliantly about anything she likes...Shy is a book that you will want to simultaneously devour in one sitting and yet savour for weeks. It is at once genuinely intimate and yet universal in its application. It is the type of effortless read that must have taken a great deal of effort to write.' 4.5 out of 5 stars * Arts Hub *
`Shy is a dynamic read...A book that rolls and moves and draws you along for the ride.' * Writer's Edit *