Eighteen Seconds by Louise Beech

Now, I’m not supposed to be blogging today as I’m taking some time out, but I simply couldn’t wait any longer to share my review of Eighteen Seconds by Louise Beech. I’d like to thank Louise for organising a copy of Eighteen Seconds to be sent to me and thank Mel Sambells at Mardle Books for ensuring it reached me in return for an honest review.

I love Louise’s writing and you’ll find an extract from Nothing Else here, my review of This Is How We Are Human (one of my books of the year in 2012) here, of Call Me Star Girl here, Maria in the Moon here and of How to be Brave here.

Eighteen Seconds: A shocking and gripping memoir of horror, forgiveness and love, was published by Mardle on 27th April 2023 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Eighteen Seconds

Family is the best thing in your life. And the worst.

My mother once said to me, ‘I wish you could feel the way I do for eighteen seconds. Just eighteen seconds, so you’d know how awful it is.’

I thought about it. Realised we could all learn from being in another person’s head for eighteen seconds. Eighteen seconds inside Grandma Roberts’ head as she sat alone with her evening cup of tea, us girls upstairs in bed. Eighteen seconds inside one-year-old Colin’s head when he woke up in a foster home without his family. Eighteen seconds inside the head of a girl waiting for her bedroom door to open.

Writer, Louise Beech, looks back on the events that led to the day her mother wrote down her last words, then jumped off the Humber Bridge. She missed witnessing the horror herself by minutes.

Louise recounts the pain and trauma of her childhood alongside her love for her siblings with a delicious dark humour and a profound voice of hope for the future.

My Review of Eighteen Seconds

A memoir.

Let me say at the outset that I’m not a huge lover of memoir and frequently find them self-indulgent, contrived and probably filled with untruths. That said, I’m a huge fan of Louise Beech’s writing and have read several of her eclectic fiction titles so I knew Eighteen Seconds would be good. It isn’t merely good. It’s magnificent. I have been utterly undone by the terrible honesty in this book. I could not have loved Eighteen Seconds more or have been more completely mesmerised by it.  It is an astonishing read that left me in pieces. If I didn’t know that Eighteen Seconds was a memoir, I’d think it was a most painfully exquisite work of fiction. But knowing it is true, that Eighteen Seconds is Louise Beech’s life laid bare makes it outstanding. And beyond emotional. And life changing. I’d defy anyone to read Eighteen Seconds and not find a little bit of themselves between its pages so that this remarkable book is metamorphic. 

If this were fiction then the plot would be described as character led and impactful, but this is real life in all its imperfections so that it feels as if Louise Beech has afforded her readers an insight into a world (hopefully) unfamiliar but that illustrates to perfection how we can never really know just what others might be experiencing. She deals with dark and disturbing themes and events with integrity and breath-taking authorial skill. Not only is Eighteen Seconds a fascinating account of a life, it is a masterclass in writing too. 

The structure of Eighteen Seconds is so clever as the author weaves her childhood experiences into her mother’s post-suicidal treatment along with snippets of the recent Covid pandemic which means that there are hooks where even readers who have experienced the complete opposite to Louise Beech’s tumultuous life, feel seen and recognised. The author might have been searching for a personal catharsis in writing her memoir, but her strength gives hope to her readers too. 

It is actually impossible to review Eighteen Seconds with any semblance of coherence because it isn’t really a book you read. It’s one you feel and live through with the author in a profound and searing manner.

It feels entirely inappropriate to say that I adored Eighteen Seconds as it’s filled with the darkness of poor mental health, many kinds of abuse and terrible neglect. But it’s also brimful with humanity, love and hope so that it is raw, emotional and magnificent. To be honest, I don’t quite know how to review Eighteen Seconds as it is, quite simply, outstanding and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just read it.

About Louise Beech

Louise’s debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick in 2015 and a top ten bestseller on Amazon. The Mountain in my Shoe longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon ‘quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt’. It was also a Must Read in the Sunday Express and a Book of the Year at LoveReadingUK. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as ‘engrossing and captivating’ by the Daily Express. It also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year and longlisted for the Polari Prize 2019. Call Me Star Girl hit number one on Kobo. It also longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize and won the Best magazine Big Book Award 2019. This Is How We Are Human was a Clare Mackintosh August Book of the Month 2021. Audiobook memoir Daffodils came out in 2022, and novel Nothing Else too. Her memoir is Eighteen Seconds published in April 2023.

Louise also writes as Louise Swanson.

You can follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWriter, find her on Facebook and Instagram and visit her website for further information.

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