Memoir can be such an intimate genre and Caroline Baum’s memoir is certainly that. Family secrets hang over everything like gauze in her account of her upbringing, defined as it was by the fact that she was an only child. Privileged and well cared for one could never have discerned from the outside that anything was amiss in young Caroline’s world. Her father, the dapper, successful and well-connected businessman made sure he kept up appearances and her mother complied.
The stories arrive in a riveting stream of consciousness drawn from the rich upbringing she enjoyed and the forms of abuse she silently endured. Everything is exposed, ugly details of family history that stem from the war and the family’s Jewish heritage, personal horrors which spanned generations and internal domestic battles that were ultimately exposed for many to see.
It could be hard to take, except that in between all the nasty and unpalatable anecdotes there are the entertaining and happy moments that defined them as a family. The bright and successful parts that proved enough to hold the Baums together.
There is never a dull or uninteresting part in this tale as it moves you effortlessly from laughter to tears. The honesty and integrity of the book is marvellous.