4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The birth of a child is supposed to be a joyous moment, the reality is often different though, especially with a first child, as mother and father cope with the new arrival and the new responsibilities that it brings. After giving birth to her first child, at first Tanya Shadrick was ok, but a few days after she began bleeding. The carpet and her dress darkened with blood. They run for help and the ambulance arrived in minutes. She was hurriedly strapped to the bed and raced to the hospital.

Her placenta had torn an artery and she was bleeding to death. The consultant left them alone for a moment to say goodbye; until that point the reality of how bad it was hit them. She didn’t know if she would ever see them again…

She did.

This book is the story of her life. She writes about growing up in her childhood and her absent father and the inner turmoil that that causes. We hear about her time at university where she meets her husband Nye and the quiet modest life that they chose to live and the decision to have a child. It was that pivot point of nearly losing everything that galvanised her into taking the opportunities that she never thought a working-class upbringing would offer.

Shadrick decided to make a ‘mile of writing’ written in her local swimming pool, This handwritten art was telling the stories of the swimmers who used the pool and in the end gave her a fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts. She made a friend with a lady called Lynne Roper who had begun swimming outdoors in 2011 while recovering from a double mastectomy. She wrote about this but then was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Shadrick not only edited her words into a cohesive whole but started a publishing company to print it as no one else was interested.

This is a searingly honest book of a woman who tries to come to terms with the things that happened in her childhood and whilst she doesn’t necessarily try to make sense of them, there is a sense in the book of release from those burdens. The prose feels like an intimate conversation with a friend, she is entrusting us, the reader, with those details that you would never normally ever know outside the context of a relationship. Following that time when she nearly lost her life because of the haemorrhaging, she has used it to build her own inner strength. But it has not been an easy path, making the choices that she has, has not always met with approval from her friends or family. But it has given her a new life in art and a courage to speak for herself and other women. This might not be everyone’s choice of book, but I would recommend reading it as you might discover something about yourself that you never knew you were capable of.

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