Notes to Self, Emilie Pine


I’ve missed out on a lot of recent nonfiction, in particular the more frequent books of essays we are seeing from women writers, because of my hunger for fiction in recent years. I could see these publications and their plaudits mounting up, on Twitter and on my imaginary wishlist, but I’d developed this desire to be consumed by ‘big’ stories, to begin reading and drown in a book. I’d wrongly assumed or remembered that this sort of thing wasn’t possible with essays and nonfiction, but Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self rapidly woke me up to my ignorance on this count.

In the first essay, Pine introduces us to her father and his alcoholism. She writes with heartbreaking honesty and the folllowing stories resonate through the knowledge that she had a brilliant father who loved her but was simultaneously a terrible parent who ruined her childhood. Another essay looks at marriage and divorce, which in Ireland for children growing up in the eighties and nineties as Pine was, meant everything. Her parents weren’t together but never divorced as it wasn’t legal, which left her mother to raise her and her younger sister with no state support, which in their case meant in poverty, albeit highly educated poverty.

Pine also considers the facts of parenthood or lack of, women’s bodies and their language and power and status. She looks at the danger it is so easy to find ourselves in, as she did as an errant teenager. Despite the heavy topics it’s a light-going and lyrical read because of her talent for storytelling, the observations that draw readers together, and the idiosyncrasies that make us all different.

I have bought a bunch of essay collections to read while I do some fiction writing of my own. Samantha Irby and Sinead Gleeson, and I’m going to give Jia Tolentino another whirl.

I loved every moment of reading this, though I wish there had been many more moments of it. And it made me cry. I am so happy I bought an actual copy as every time I read something I love on Kindle I then mourn not owning it.

Buy Notes to Self by Emilie Pine (Penguin) for £9.99 from Waterstones