In her second memoir, the influential rocker addresses life after punk.
Albertine’s publishing debut, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. (2014), earned widespread acclaim beyond music circles. Its unflinching honesty and street-wise feminism struck responsive chords as she recounted the formative years of British punk rock and her standard-bearing role in the Slits, a female band that demanded to be taken seriously within punk’s male-dominated hierarchy. Now that Albertine’s music career appears to be over—or is at least winding down—she has become a writer, with this second book required to follow the breakthrough success of the first. Here, the author dwells little on the music through which most previously knew her—and which she covered so well in her previous book—and more on her roles, mother, daughter, and sister, among others. As Albertine prepared for the book party to launch her memoir, she learned that her 95-year-old mother was on her deathbed, so she rushed with her daughter to be by her side. There, she joined her younger sister, with whom she was once much closer. The two engaged in a horrific battle at their mother’s bedside, a hair-pulling, blood-letting fight to the finish between two women in their mid-50s whose years of bottled-up tension was just waiting to explode: “ ‘You’re mad,’ said [sister] Pascal. She was right. I was mad. Completely insane. A deranged, murderous, certifiable, raging lunatic.” The narrative intersperses short paragraphs detailing the mother’s death as the sisters battled between slightly longer reminiscences about growing up together as their family was falling apart and how their mother did her best to keep them estranged from their father. Albertine also quotes at length from her father’s diary and her mother’s testimony on the dissolution of that marriage, which she discovered after the death of each, and which frequently contradicted each other (and sometimes her own memory). “Truth is splintered,” she concludes.
Not the cultural resource that her first memoir was, but still as brave and engaging in the writing.