One of These Things First by Steven Gaines
genre: MEMOIR | pages: 272
My rating: ★★★★
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Memoirs have never been a favourite of mine, so I went into One of These Things First expecting a somewhat tedious time. As it turns out, Steven Gaines’ story and writing style both fascinated and moved me.
‘I saw him fleetingly, no more than a slow camera pan as he passed in and out of frame, but I knew him so intimately from that moment that I can still smell the sun on the nape of his neck.’
It is a poignant and fairly dark read but with enough humour to offer a change of pace. The book has been compared to Girl, Interrupted although Girl was far darker and more intense than this.
The book is fairly short but the story itself spans much of the author’s life, with the central focus on his fifteen-year-old self, leading up to, and during, his time at a psychiatric clinic. His struggle with who he is and how he is perceived is nothing short of heartbreaking.
The tone of the book is conversational as he recounts his memories and experience, but with such acute attention to detail that it makes even the mundane seem interesting. It is written in such a way that his interest, mild obsession even, with Mr Halliday or Mary, becomes infectious. And I love how his description of the people in his world conjures a vivid image in the mind.
One of These Things First is a story that I’m sure took a massive amount of courage to write. Acceptance among family, communities, or within general society is difficult, especially at the time these events took place. Self-acceptance is often a doubly hard, never-ending battle, and I’m glad there is a hint of it at the end.
‘There were women I loved, but not completely. No matter how wonderful the women I romanced were, I was driven by nature and design to love a man more.’