The Wild Other Clover Stroud (Hodder, £20)
In this enthralling memoir, Clover stroud (born in 1975) recounts the first 41 years of her life to date. For 6,067 days of that life (she counted), she and her sister nell were blessed with a lovely, funloving, liberating, horse-loving mother who made every day a joy and made life in their country house, at Minety in Wiltshire, idyllic.
‘so, please, please,’ the reader begs in the first chapters of this memoir, ‘don’t have the accident’— but the accident comes. On the 6,068th day of Miss stroud’s life, while she was sitting in double history, the head teacher came in and asked her to step outside.
‘I cannot look back at life,’ she writes, ‘without seeing a jagged scar that separates the time immediately before the accident from the time after it.’ her mother, falling off her horse onto a concrete surface, had suffered a catastrophic blow to the head and was in a coma.
What follows proves that there are fates worse than death. her mother came out of her coma and lived on, and on, for 22 more years, but was never, ever again able to recognise or communicate with any member of her family. she gets ‘better’, in that she can walk about, ‘but she could also say nothing, do nothing and knew nothing either… Mum became a very fit and apparently physically able madwoman’.
Miss stroud describes in forensic detail what these 22 years were like: the terrible, terrible missing and the vain hoping and the gradual, agonising change from praying for her mother to get better to willing her to die and be at peace.
Life for the daughter in these dark years is racy, boisterous and very horsey. You might think she’d never want to go near a horse again, but the opposite is the case. she works in a stable yard after leaving school, goes and lives with travellers in Ireland in her gap year before Oxford and then works on a ranch in texas, riding bucking broncos. she, nell and her half-sister Emma immersed themselves in all-consuming work after their mother’s accident: nell started Gifford’s Circus and Emma became the renowned ceramics manufacturer Emma Bridgewater.
For Clover, the craving was for horses: ‘Maybe the more dangerous the places the horses took me to, the closer I felt to Mum, since what I really craved was to find her.’ she is also the mother of five children and strives to be the kind of parent her own mother was to her on those precious 6,067 days. Ysenda Maxtone Graham