2019 - Shortlisted
A finely observed reflection on the complexities of family relationships, aptly subtitled a curious life. Rozanna Lilley is the mother of an autistic son, Oscar, and the daughter of eccentric libertarians whose parenting left her own childhood “carelessly broken”. The book takes the form of a series of loosely linked essays and concludes with 44 intensely personal poems, truly poetry as memoir. The stories of Lilley’s childhood and her own parenting are beautifully and gently integrated. She reflects on caring for Oscar and her father, who is suffering from dementia, with tenderness and sensitivity. The recounting of her sexual abuse as a teenager is searing but restrained as Lilley carefully examines the long impact of childhood trauma.
As a parent who has become a researcher on autism and child development, having first trained as an anthropologist, Lilley’s observations are informed and acute. The writing is poetic, subtle and nuanced. While clear about the difficulties and demands of raising a child with special needs, Lilley writes with tenderness and humour of the many pleasures and delights her beloved Oscar brings to family life.