In the Blood is Andrew Motion’s beautifully written memoir of growing up in post-war England – an unforgettable evocation of family life, school life and country life. It also tells the story of how these worlds are shattered, when his mother suffers a terrible riding accident.
The tragedy shadows the book, feeding its mood of elegy as well as its celebratory vigilance. Written from a teenage child’s point of view, without the benefit of adult hindsight, Motion captures the pathos and puzzlement of childhood with great clarity of expression and freshness of memory. We encounter a strange but beguiling extended family, a profound love of the natural world, a troubled schooling, and a growing passion for books and writing.
By turns funny and elegiac, In the Blood is a wonderful picture of a vanishing England, a remarkable insight into a poet’s mind, and a deeply moving portrait of the bond between a mother and her son.
Andrew Motion was appointed Poet Laureate in 1999, but alongside his work as a poet he also had a significant career as a prize-winning biographer and an illuminating critic. Ways of Life celebrates this talent with a selection of his articles about painters and poets, as well as a number of striking personal pieces. The literary essays in Ways of Life look at a wide assortment of writers, from John Clare and Ivor Gurney, to marginal figures such as Leigh Hunt and Joseph Severn, and reassess the less well-known work of celebrated writers including John Donne, Christina Rossetti and Thomas Hardy. Ways of Life is an original, acute and emotionally-charged collection of writings, from a truly important and insightful writer.