Book Review Therapy Today
Guilt: an exploration
O Books 2009,
Reviewed by Sue Rowe
This book feels like a guilty pleasure in its own right! I forgot I was reviewing a professional book and became completely immersed in the characters and story. Reading it was like curling up on the sofa with a good novel.Caroline Brazier explores the huge subject of guilt by telling the story of a group of children growing up inthe 60s, in a London I recognise well from personal experience. Her descriptions of the daily lives, experiences and emotions of the main characters are so vivid I could almost smell and taste the school playground again as I read, and relived, the childhood terror of getting into trouble with teachersand parents.
Mostly, the children’s guilt does not occur as a result of heinous acts. The story is more about the kind of guilt, shame and fearful feelings that arise following relatively minor misdemeanoursthat become blown out of proportion by young minds which can only understand part of a whole picture.Although entitled Guilt: An Exploration, it goes further than that. It looks at all the other emotions that accompany guilt: shame, secrecy, regret, envy, and the painful journey from childhood through adolescence, where sexuality rears its ugly head (and it is ugly to these children when they first discover what adults actually do).
The first two thirds or so of the book are set in the 60s and the last part jumps forward to when the maincharacter is almost 30 years old and returns to her old haunts to look back. In so doing, almost by chance, she discovers the momentous outcome of a decision she made back then. Every so often the narrative is paused for commentary on what is happening in the story and to explore the wider issues. Itkeeps you guessing right until the end.Free from theoretical jargon and academic language, this book is a delight to read, very thought provoking and hard to put down. Ordinary lives, written about in ordinary language, make for an extraordinary book which offers its reader professional or lay, a valuable insight into human nature.
Sue Rowe is a trainer,supervisor and BACP accredited counsellor
review published in Therapy Today: May 2009