Idea: This memoir offers coming-of-age reminiscence told from the perspective of a COVID- quarantined. The author shares her life story beginning with childhood in World War II era England. What follows is a heartwarming glimpse into a fading generation.
Prose: The writing is clean and organized, containing strong expository and descriptive writing.
Originality: Essentially a genealogical narrative, the story it tells is unique to the author’s life experience. An enjoyable and interesting family story is told, but it offers little from a structural or thematic standpoint to set it apart from other narratives depicting the author’s generation.
Character/Execution: While the content of the book doesn’t do anything exceptional to stand out from its contemporaries, what is presented is well-crafted and told in a strong and warm narrative voice. Also included are a good number of photos, which add tremendously to the book.
Date Submitted: January 22, 2021
INDIEREADER RATING: 4.0
FROM THERE TO HERE: War, Peace, Pandemic— which serves as a prequel to the author’s earlier volume— is a mid-20th century memoir of an upper-middle-class woman from her youth in England during World War II through her early adult years in America.
Romy Wyllie was born into the upper-middle-class family of a Scottish-born surgeon living in northern England. She is sent, young, to boarding schools during and after World War II and attends the University of St. Andrews on a windy eastern tip of the Scottish coast. At university, the athletic, good-natured, bright-hearted Wyllie’s instinct for camaraderie sometimes constrains her academic accomplishments. The second half of her tale takes us from her marriage to geologist/petrologist Peter Wyllie, their early years in Pennsylvania, and their extended travel across the United States before the birth of their first child.
Wyllie has a knack for clear prose and for blending well-recalled personal details with a sense of place and history. These talents enrich her storytelling. The history of the school buildings, the annual Kate Kennedy Club parade with its pipe band and a costumed procession of “golfers, clerics, scholars, monarchs, and courtiers,” the dances she attended, and meticulous descriptions of her experiences enliven her story. Against this backdrop of vivid detail, there is the steady, gentle glow of her love and admiration for her father, her husband, and the places she has been and seen.
Memoirs have the fascinating potential of bringing us into lives that resonate with yet are deeply different from our own. Wyllie’s story is no exception. The way her life and family are menaced though not undone by World War II reverberates with the roulette-wheel experience of American life under COVID-19. And yet, her story is rich in the unfamiliar. An adoring nanny, being shipped off to boarding school at a young age, being chided by elderly landladies for bringing men to visit will be alien experiences to many readers. Similarly, and even more haunting, a long happy travelogue through a 1950s America with similar surfaces, but very different depths.
Romy Wyllie’s FROM THERE TO HERE: War, Peace, Pandemic offers a vivid, loving glimpse into a life both alien and familiar: growing up wealthy in England during a world-shaking war and traveling through an American landscape that is at once the same and utterly changed.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader