Friday, January 6, 2012

My three Fathers and the Elegant Deceptions of My Mother Susan Mary Alsop by William S.Patten

This book is a well written account of a time, place and people now gone and a lifestyle that would probably only now exist amongst the British Aristocracy or whatever is left of them.
William S Patten writes a heartfelt memoir, that is generous and forgiving but which equally does not fail to recount the truth and the anger that the truth brings. Until he was 47 Patten believed he was the son of an American Diplomatic based in Paris, the revelation that he was the son in fact of British Diplomat Duff Cooper came as a consequence of an intervention that Patten, his sister and others had arranged for their mother now known as Susan Mary Alsop as they were more than concerned about her propensity for drink.
The man Patten believed to be his father died when he was 12 and his mother married the renowned and homosexual journalist and friend of the famous Joe Alsop who had been Bill Patten`s best friend, the socially advantageous life careened on but not without repercussions for Patten who had an anger problem and a sense of not belonging, of not knowing those who had so influenced him in any but a superficial manner. He was the spitting image of his biological father but the bond was non existent, the man who was married to his mother at the time of his conception and birth was lost to him at an early age and he had very ambivalent feelings about his mothers second husband who had huge issues of his own,this book is the story of Patterns attempt to make a whole out of the main skeins. It is a book that is sprinkled with stories of histories notables, it is generous and forgiving and understanding of what makes a person the way they are and why the might behave a certain way but it isn`t  just a litany of excuses either which makes it quite unique. I didn`t much like Duff Cooper, Susan Mary Alsop or Joe Alsop, each cold, arrogant and self absorbed with a shallowness that was only leavened by the writing abilities of this trio who made a contribution via their writing to history, their brittleness and tendency towards alcohol masked a desperation that all life's riches couldn't really cure. Bill Patten, William`s father was the best of the bunch, weighted down sadly by illness and an inability to tie his abilities to a sturdy lamppost.
A very good read, the type of book that has you turning the pages so you can find out what happens next. It is also an interesting  reality that in today`s media, you`d be hard pressed to get away with this type of behaviour.

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