Before I Forget, by Jacqueline Fahey (Auckland University Press, 2012), 192 pp, $45 .
Venturing into often extremely private territory with honesty and insight, this memoir’s a remarkable read. Fahey’s stunning cover is a painting that suggests the older artist looking back: her younger self’s presented in a little black dress with high heels, with younger self yelling ‘Don’t, don’t, don’t’, (as if the older woman can never truly understand the past, not now). We make of memory what we may, crafting rather than recreating the actuality of lived experience, and Fahey illustrates this very well, giving the sense of a mature artist who mines the past for necessary information to unfold the stories she wants to tell and explore. Areas of darkness surround this sense of recall: in the cover image, a dog and an infant perhaps stand for traumatic events. Yet the interpretation of tumultuous life events persists, and the perplexities of returning to her past are carried out with aplomb. This is brave, admirably clear prose, written with wit and containing many surprises – a memoir with various layers and subtle meanings.