Last year The Glass Castle was turned into a film. Whilst I haven’t watched the film this is certainly the sort of memoir, and writing style, that greatly lends itself to being adapted. In many ways it seems surprising that it took from publication in 2006 to 2017 for a film adaptation to happen.
The book itself is a memoir of Jeanette Walls, a journalist in America, that shows how she went from constantly on the move with her family to settling into life in New York and progressing from school newspaper editor to big shot in social circles. As well as being a memoir and letting people into the life of somebody that gets to mix with the elite of New York it feels very much like an attempt to say to readers ‘I got through all this and managed to follow my dreams so maybe you can too’.
Copyright of book cover belongs to Virago
It also shows the realities of having a difficult relationship with somebody and how that alters how people deal with grief. It shows the family moving on and trying to make themselves the best they can be in a settled environment rather than trying to run away from the problem like they had all previously done in the past. Seeing cats unhappy to be travelling thrown out of vehicles and left behind probably had a pretty strong impact on the family in terms of mourning the loss of something or someone they love.
There are moments when this book does make you chuckle, the odd moment of happiness and carefree attitudes in the children are refreshing, but a lot of the time it feels heavy and heart-breaking. It has the potential to influence readers in a number of ways depending on their own upbringing and social status as to whether it shocks people that such events happen, that it brings back memories of poverty and neglect for others or whether it serves as a motivational pick-me-up for those that are struggling to ever imagine leaving some run down town to chase their dreams.
Whilst it very much feels that Walls has moved on in her life from the events of her youth it is clear that these memories feel as fresh as yesterday. The Glass Castle feels like a memoir that was as much for Walls to be able to get everything out of her head and onto paper as it was to highlight social injustice, poverty, neglect and to act as a self-help book for people that need that little something to get their dreams going or to change themselves and their lives somehow.
It also acts a reminder that some people just simply cannot be changed however much somebody tries and gets them to attempt to promise and that whilst loved ones can have the best intentions for somebody there is just nothing that can be done. It is certainly a painful reminder but an important one that at times the only way somebody can be helped is if they want to help themselves and accept the help of others. In the case of the Dad he did not seem to want help, or was perhaps too scared to accept help, with his alcohol problem and after trying a method of self-help techniques he and the family had just given up. We all hate to think of people as a lost cause but in this case it seemed hard, with them wanting to avoid any sort of authority which I imagine extended to those fancy medical professionals, to imagine him being any other way and the writing gave a sense that was the conclusion Walls had reached as well.
There were points in this book where I really wanted to shout at the parents and shake them around. One moment that stood out to me was when the kids were trying to save to get the oldest sister out of the house and to new York and then the money magically went missing. The parents insisted it wasn’t them but by this point in the book they are such absolute villains and people to growl at that it is hard for the reader to even contemplate anything else. Another moment was the way that the father put Jeanette at risk simply to get some extra money as the idea of any father not considering the risks of what he was doing and saying shocks me; just because he knew she could protect herself doesn’t mean he should have been so keen to shrug off any risk that might actually exist.
After reading this book I came across The Silver Star, another book by Walls, in a local charity shop and as I enjoyed the writing style and the way that everything was merged together in this book to tell a powerful and moving narrative I just had to pick it up. It will be interesting to see how the writing styles compare and if there are points that make me think in the same way as The Glass Castle.
I would certainly recommend giving this book a read. If you have given it a read, I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below. And remember you can always follow me on Goodreads for updates on what I am currently reading.