The Glass Castle
Former gossip writer Jeannette Walls used to expose the secrets of the “fat cats and skinny dames”, as her father called them, of New York City but she would take pains to keep her own background under wraps for fear she would lose her job. But not until she’d written an inflammatory item about the Church of Scientology and discovered the institution had begun an investigation into her own life did she feel the time was right to tell the truth. Her unsettling memoir The Glass Castle was the result. The fairytale-like promise of the book title, which comes from the architectural wonder Jeannette’s father vows to build his family one day, bears no relation to the harrowing reality of what the author and her two siblings had to endure during their childhood. They were raised by a brilliant and possibly bipolar drunkard of a father and a free-spirited, egocentric artist mother,, both adults emotionally and financially ill-equipped to raise children. As the itinerant family skips from place to place, staying in one rundown hovel after another, trying to stay a step ahead of debt collectors, the Walls’ lives becomes increasingly bleak. As the children grow into teenagers, they gradually come to the realisation that if they are to get out of their impoverished circumstances they need to abandon their co-dependent parents. Their remarkable story, originally published in 2005, has been re-released to accompany its feature film adaptation, starring Brie Larsen, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts.