To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2018)

vivThis is not a memoir about music but if you come to it as a fan of The Slits you will not be disappointed by the embodiment of the punk spirit that Viv Albertine represents.

In it, she describes herself as questioning, militant, aggressive, secretly shy, awkward, mistrustful and solitary.

Her experiences illustrate how families inevitably form our personalities but also tend to fuck us up in the process. In seeking to make sense of two divorces (hers and her parents) and the death of her mother she opens up a can of worms. The book’s title comes from the (unheeded) instructions written on a bag containing her mother’s papers pertaining to her acrimonious divorce from her largely absentee father.

I love this book for Albertine’s honesty and for the boldness with which she describes her determination to stick to her principles. As she freely admits, her actions frequently tend to make her guilty of recklessness but she is unrepentant: “There are more and more of us women out there who won’t be pushed around and will give back a lot more than was bargained for”. The violent confrontation with her sister has to be read to be believed. Prepare to be shocked.

Any further attempt at mansplaining would be disrespectful to an author who has this unambiguous message for male readers : “For sixty years I’ve been shaped by men’s point of view on every aspect of my life, from history, politics, music and art to my mind and my body –and centuries more male-centric history before that. I’m saturated with their opinions”.

All I’d like to say is that this book is for anyone interested in knowing more about the pitfalls, pleasures and pains of living an independent life.

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