Mem­oir

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

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

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