Scent of Dried Roses

by Tim Lott | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 0140250840 Global Overview for this book
Registered by BookGroupMan of Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on 7/8/2004
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Thursday, July 08, 2004
Tim Lott's first book, a family memoir about the twin disasters of depression & suicide, and what looks like a fine English social history as well. I've read his brilliant fictional debut (White City Blue) and have 'Rumours of a Hurricane' to be read

(nb. right ISBN, wrong cover - i'll find the right UK cover later)

(22/09) Review to follow

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Friday, September 24, 2004
Robert Burton, writing in the C17th (The Anatomy of Melancholy), suggested the ‘Scent of Dried Roses’ as a remedy for the emotional pain, as a product of past experiences, “A man may be undone by an evil bringing up.” Tim Lott gives us a lot of history, reflection & analysis on the whys and wherefores of depression as a family (genetic) disease; an organic condition; as a chemical imbalance (treatable with drugs); as a shutting down, a raging, a-lone, selfish, self-pitying hell-on-earth. Eventually he comes to a sort of understanding, that depression is a unique ‘illness of identity’, "it is the illness of those who do not know where they fit, who lose faith in the myths they have so painstakingly created for themselves. Thus, in this current confused, self-hating England, it is spreading like a virulent, dimly understood virus. And it is a plague – especially if you add in all its various forms of expression, like alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction, compulsive behaviour of one kind or another. They’re all the same thing: attempts to avoid disappearance, or nothingness, or chaos."

I have included this long quote to illustrate that this is not an easy read, well written (if a little stuffy), nostalgic, personal & very honest, but ultimately rewarding. As well as the depression stuff, this is an autobiography and a biography in which TL traces a very personal family history over a big chunk of the C20th; he’s looking for shape to his own life (‘his story’) and looking for clues as to the causes of his own suicidal thoughts and deep depressions, and why his mother killed herself. There is a sort of muddled conclusion to the latter, which I didn’t completely follow. This book is part of Lott’s own journey towards recovery (never really fully recovered I suggest?), and as such it has a tendency to be self-indulgent, mirthless, and…erm…depressing.

I loved the modern social history of the British, of a new prospering breed of working class with aspirations, as they move out of the cities into an urban ‘subtopia’ of privet hedges, net curtains and indoor plumbing. In the case of the Lotts, and his Father’s in-laws, this was a migration to Southall (West London). This new heartland, and its subsequent outward changes and inward loss of shared morality, community & continuity acts as a very powerful theme running through the whole book. This is almost painfully poignant and very well done, I know, because I was there; a child of the sixties in Harrow, so a bit younger than TL, but with parents & Grandparents uprooted from Fulham & Hammersmith, Neasden & Willesden – builders, bank clerks, office & bakery workers, swapping blue collars for white. A generation or 2 further back (again like Lott), they had come from close rural communities, from the Lincolnshire Fens, villages in Kent & Somerset. These were incredible social changes, the raw materials of a hundred thousand memoirs.

"In the animal kingdom, the rule is eat or be eaten. In the human kingdom, it is define of be defined. The struggle for definition is the struggle for life itself” – Thomas Szasz

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